US Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic challenger Kamala Harris will meet Wednesday night (Thursday, 12pm AEDT) for a debate that comes with added significance as questions remain over the health of Donald Trump.
Along with standard COVID-19-related precautions, Pence and Harris will also be separated by plexiglass barriers after a series of positive tests within White House staff and officials.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday it was safe for Pence to take part because he was not a close contact of anyone with COVID-19, including Trump.
Here’s how to watch the vice presidential debate in Australia and why it matters.
What time does the vice presidential debate start in Australia?
The debate will start at 9pm EDT on Wednesday in America, or 12pm on Thursday for Victoria, ACT, New South Wales and Tasmania, 11pm in Queensland, 11.30am in South Australia, 10.30am in NT, and 9am in Western Australia.
How do I watch the VP debate in Australia?
ABC News 24 and SBS will broadcast and stream the debate live from midday AEDT, Thursday, October 8.
How long will the debate go for?
Who is the debate moderator?
Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief of newspaper USA Today.
What is the debate format?
The 90-minute debate will be divided into nine 10-minute segments without commercial breaks.
When and where are the other presidential debates?
The second debate is set for October 15 in Miami, Florida, and the third on October 22 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Why is the 2020 vice presidential debate more significant?
When Mike Pence and Kamala Harris take the debate stage Wednesday evening, Americans could plausibly be watching both the 46 and 48 presidents of the United States.
The age of Donald Trump, 74, who is the 45 president, and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, 78, would by itself put added scrutiny on their running mates. Add in a coronavirus pandemic and Trump’s recent positive diagnosis for the disease, and the undercard match-up suddenly becomes even more relevant.
“You realise that due to how old and ill Donald Trump is, that Mike Pence could be president next week,” said Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley. “Conversely, Joe Biden would be the oldest president ever elected, so people will be looking at Kamala Harris.”
Ultimately, the debate is a chance for voters to decide whether Pence and Harris are in a position to step into the presidency at a moment’s notice.
Who is Mike Pence?
Mike Pence, 61, has led the White House’s coronavirus task force, taking a high-profile spot at White House briefings, projecting an aura of calm and empathy rarely made by his boss.
Pence was elected Indiana’s governor in 2013 after serving 12 years in Congress. He has consistently attacked reproductive rights, was an unapologetic defender of the war in Iraq and came under fire in 2015 for signing an Indiana law that allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT Americans. In December 2015, he also criticised Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, tweeting that it was “offensive and unconstitutional.
Who is Kamala Harris?
Kamala Harris is the first Black woman to compete on a major party’s presidential ticket in the US.
A woman has still never served as president or vice president in the United States.
Just two women have even been nominated as running mates on major party tickets: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Republican Sarah Palin in 2008. Their parties both lost in the elections of those years.
Harris is a 55-year-old first-term senator with a background in law enforcement, having served as California attorney general and district attorney in San Francisco.
Her mother was an Indian immigrant and her father was a Jamaican immigrant and she has described herself as “a proud American” whose African American and Indian heritage “are of equal weight in terms of who I am”.
Harris won her first election in 2003 when she became San Francisco’s district attorney. In the role, she created a reentry programme for low-level drug offenders and cracked down on student truancy.
She was elected California’s attorney general in 2010, the first woman and the first Black person to hold the job, and focused on issues including the foreclosure crisis.
After being elected to the Senate in 2016, she quickly gained attention for her assertive questioning of Trump administration officials during congressional hearings.
She launched her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in early 2019 with the slogan “Kamala Harris For the People,” a reference to her courtroom work.
Facing fundraising problems, Harris abruptly withdrew from the presidential race in December 2019, two months before the first votes of the primary were cast.
S.V. Date, Senior White House Correspondent, HuffPost
Vice presidential debates have never attracted as much attention as those between the presidential nominees. The one between Pence, then the governor of Indiana, and Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine in 2016 was not particularly memorable. Nor was the one between then-Vice President Biden and then-Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan in 2012. The debate between Republican Dick Cheney and Democrat Joe Lieberman in 2000 was more of a quiet conversation.
In none of these and other recent vice presidential debates, however, was there a foreseeable possibility that either of the participants would be become president in the near future.
But Wednesday night, Pence will take the stage as Trump remains in the residence of the White House, recovering from a virus that is particularly deadly to the elderly and the obese.
While the White House physician has been reporting that Trump is doing well and improving, he could easily deteriorate, forcing him to transfer power to Pence should he require sedation. In a worst case – but one that has happened to 5 percent of patients over 70, and which nearly happened to a much younger Boris Johnson, the British prime minister – the disease could prove fatal.
Biden’s age, meanwhile, will likely force Harris to continue in a different role than that of the traditional running mate. Rather than focus primarily on attacking Trump and Pence, Harris will have to show her ability to step into the top job if necessary, Brinkley said.
Biden’s age could also mean that, should he win, he may choose not to run for a second term – making Harris’ performance Wednesday a potential early audition for the Democratic primary in 2024.
With files from The Associated Press