The University of Utah will host the debate, moderated by USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page. The debate will run from 9 to 10:30 pm ET (that’s 8 to 9:30 pm CT, 7 to 8:30 pm MT, and 6 to 7:30 pm PT), and will be broadcast on all major networks and cable news channels. If you don’t have cable, it will also be streamed live on YouTube and by multiple organizations, including C-SPAN and NPR.
Page has not released a list of topics, though the candidates will have to cover each one quickly — she will address nine topics, with just 10 minutes devoted to each. The Covid-19 pandemic is sure to be a focus, especially with President Donald Trump and several other top government officials testing positive for the coronavirus last week.
At 74 and 77 respectively, Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden are the two oldest presidential candidates in US history, giving the vice presidential nominees — and thus the debate — extra significance. The president is still being treated for Covid-19 after spending three days in the hospital, bringing to light the possibility that the vice president may have to assume presidential responsibilities and making questions about succession particularly salient.
After last week’s first presidential debate saw each candidate, but particularly Trump, repeatedly interrupt the other, some things have changed. The Commission on Presidential Debates plans to adopt rule changes for the remaining debates, including giving the moderator the ability to cut off either candidate’s microphone if they are talking out of turn.
Other things — like the decision to hold an in-person event in the midst of a pandemic — not so much.
How the White House coronavirus cluster is affecting the debates
Despite warnings from health experts, the debate will be held in person, albeit with some extra precautions. The debate commission will move the candidates’ podiums to 13 feet apart, an increase from the originally planned 7 feet. Page, however, will still be less than 6 feet from Pence and Harris.
A plexiglass barrier will also be placed between the candidates. Harris’s campaign supported the extra line of defense, but Pence’s opposed it — Pence spokesperson Katie Miller told Politico that “If Sen. Harris wants to use a fortress around herself, have at it.”
Several health experts have said the additional precautions still aren’t enough, calling for the debate to be moved to a virtual event. Kumi Smith, an assistant professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota, told Vox that in-person debates require more people coming together in an indoor space than social distancing guidelines recommend.
Rochele Walensky, an infectious disease expert at Harvard University, took an even stronger position, noting that Pence has been in contact with Trump and several other individuals who have tested positive for the virus. Walensky told the New York Times that “there is no way under the sun that Pence should be anywhere but in his home.”
Neither candidate, however, has called for a remote debate. Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller noted on Meet The Press on Sunday that Biden and Harris have both been campaigning in person, while Biden said he would be comfortable attending the two remaining presidential debates if scientists say it’s safe and with proper distancing.
No decisions have yet been made regarding those last two presidential debates, which for now are still scheduled for October 15 in Miami, Florida, and October 22 in Nashville, Tennessee.