US Election 2020

Vice Presidential debate: who are Mike Pence and Kamala Harris?

All eyes have now turned to the running mates. As election day looms, Harris and Pence have one chance to prove to the public they've got what it takes.

Vice Presidential debate: who are Mike Pence and Kamala Harris?
DAVID BECKER REUTERS

With the Vice Presidential debate due to go ahead tomorrow October 7 in Salt Lake City, Utah, the week that Covid-19 is running riot in the white house. To date, top Republicans positive with coronavirus include the President, first lady, adviser Hope Hicks, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and two of her aides, Bill Stepien, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Chris Christie, and Thom Tillis, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson.

Mike Pence and his wife are being tested for the virus every morning and so far he has not tested positive.

As an extra precaution, the debate will this time take place with each candidate behind a plexiglass barrier, and the candidates will be spaced 12 feet apart, in contrast to the first presidential debate to which at least 11 cases have since been linked.

Wednesday night both VP candidates will have the chance to prove they are worthy of the job, which has suddenly become more important than ever; with the final two Presidential debates in doubt, what with an Election running concurrent to a pandemic in which both candidates are well over 70.

According to Axios, Pence has been practicing for the debate with Pam Bondi, the former attorney general of Florida. Harris has been rehearsing with Pete Buttigieg, a fellow Democratic primary candidate, standing in for Pence. It also reports that Harris’ plan had been to tear Trump apart personally by linking him to Pence, but since the President’s health worsened, has changed tactic.

How to watch the VP debate

So who are Mike Pence and Kamala Harris?

Kamala Harris:

Speaking to The Guardian, Aaron Kall, director of debate at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor commented that “In some ways, just like Joe Biden, Kamala Harris is a very inconsistent debater. In the Democratic primary, she did great in the first one in Miami in June 2019, and that rocketed her up to the top tier. But then she was never able to re-create that magic in subsequent debates.”

However given her background as a prosecutor, other experts are confident that Harris will succeed in dominating over Pence with her agressive questioning, and ability to mount a case against Pence, Trump and the whole administration.

Harris, 55, was sworn is as Senator for California in 2017. She was born in Oakland, California to two immigrant parents; an Indian-born mother and Jamaican-born father. Her parents divorced meaning she was primarily raised by her mother, a cancer researcher and civil rights activist.

Following a five-year period living in Montreal, Canada as a child, she attended Howard University in the US, one of the nation's preeminent historically black colleges and universities. She peaked in her career as a prosecutor with two terms in office as the top lawyer in America’s most populous state, as Attorney General of San Francisco.

She ran for president in the primaries in 2020, but strugged to define a clear message, attempting to appeal to both moderates and liberals, ultimately pleasing neither. She lost to Biden, but before being picked to be his running mate, notably had fiery exchanges with him like this in primary debates.

She is step-mother to her husband Doug Emhoff’s two children.

Who is Mike Pence?

Vice President Mike Pence, 61, is now one of the most influential figures in the White House. With an appeal almost completely opposite to Trump, he is a typical politician, smooth communicator and slick media wrangler.

Before being confirmed as VP in 2016 Pence had openly criticised Trump on numerous occasions. He called Mr Trump's proposed ban on Muslims entering the US "offensive and unconstitutional," the BBC reports.

Raised in Indiana with his five siblings, Pence is now an evangelical Christian, though his upbringing was Catholic, and Democrat. His religion has always featured as an integral part of his life, having met his wife at an evangelical church in college.

In fact, Pence has pinpointed the moment that his ideology changed. The Guardian reports that in a 2010 interview with the Christian Broadcast Network, Pence proclaimed:

“Standing at a Christian music festival in Asbury, Ky., in the spring of 1978, I gave my life to Jesus Christ, and that's changed everything.”

After losing two congressional elections, Pence turned to entertainment, starting his own talk radio show from 1994 to 1999 where he appealed to the disenfranchised and frustrated midwest masses criticising both Republicans and Democrats in power.

The Vice President served as governor of Indiana between 2013 and 2017, but also has 12 years of legislative experience as a member of the US House of Representatives.

Pence is openly and strongly opposed to abortion and as governor signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, which gave businesses the right to refuse services based on religious beliefs.

With Trump’s doctors clearly stating that the president is not "‘out of the woods", all eyes are on Pence, who may need to step up into presidential duties sooner than anybody predicted.

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