2020 vice presidential debate

By Melissa Macaya, Fernando Alfonso III, Veronica Rocha, Jessica Estepa and Kyle Blaine, CNN

Updated 2:23 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020
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7:35 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

The parents of Kayla Mueller will be Pence's guests tonight

From CNN's Daniella Diaz

In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, Carl and Marsha Mueller, parents of humanitarian worker Kayla Mueller who was killed by ISIS, address the virtual convention on August 27.
In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, Carl and Marsha Mueller, parents of humanitarian worker Kayla Mueller who was killed by ISIS, address the virtual convention on August 27. Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence’s guest at tonight’s debate will be the parents of Kayla Mueller, who was kidnapped and killed by ISIS.

In 2012, Kayla traveled to the Turkey/Syria border to work with the Danish Refugee Council and the humanitarian organization Support to Life, which assisted families forced to flee their homes.

She was taken hostage by ISIS in Aleppo, Syria, in 2013 after she visited a Spanish MSF (Doctors Without Borders) hospital. The family confirmed Kayla's death in 2015.

7:30 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Ahead of tonight's debate, Salt Lake City mayor called on city to reimpose tougher restrictions

From CNN's Steve Almasy and Christina Maxouris

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks during a news conference Monday, Sept. 21, in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks during a news conference Monday, Sept. 21, in Salt Lake City. Rick Bowmer/AP

Almost nine months into the coronavirus pandemic, the crisis shows no signs of abating, even in states that were once not considered Covid-19 hotspots.

Utah, where the vice presidential candidates will debate tonight, is averaging more than 1,000 new cases each day for the past week. That's the highest it's been since the first cases in the US were reported in late January.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall on Tuesday requested the city reimpose tougher restrictions like smaller limits on social gatherings.

"Our data's continuing upward trend is alarming and swift action is necessary. The shift to orange should be a signal to Salt Lake City residents of the gravity of this situation," Mendenhall said.

The head of the Oregon Health Authority on Tuesday said the state is seeing a significant spike in new coronavirus cases since autumn began.

"We have reversed the progress we made in the late summer, and our most recent modeling shows the virus is spreading more rapidly," Pat Allen told reporters.

State officials in Alaska are seeing record numbers of cases and its highest ever test positivity rate (4.19%).

In Montana, health officials reported more than 500 new cases for the first time. According to The Covid Tracking Project, the state on Monday reported 201 new hospitalizations, a record.

Overall cases across the nation are on the rise. More than 50,000 daily cases were reported on Friday and Saturday. The last time the US saw more than 50,000 cases back to back was mid-August.

Just four states — Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri and South Carolina — are reporting a decline in coronavirus cases over the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

7:23 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

What we know about Harris' debate strategy

From CNN's Dan Merica, Kyung Lah, MJ Lee and Jasmine Wright

California Senator Kamala Harris speaks onstage during the fourth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by The New York Times and CNN at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio on October 15, 2019.
California Senator Kamala Harris speaks onstage during the fourth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by The New York Times and CNN at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio on October 15, 2019. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Kamala Harris and Mike Pence will be the two candidates on the debate stage in Utah tonight, but the California senator's goal is to make the contest all about the man who isn't there: President Trump.

Harris, according to multiple Democrats familiar with her debate strategy, is preparing for the highest profile moment in her political career by studying both Trump and Pence's past positions, speaking with people who either know Pence well or have debated him in the past and preparing for a vice president who, unlike his boss, doesn't show much emotion on the debate stage.

But the goal, the sources said, is to make the debate about more than Pence and focus the conversation on Trump's mishandling of coronavirus, much like Biden tried to do a week earlier.

"Even though it is a vice presidential debate, the debate is about Donald Trump and Joe Biden," said a Biden campaign aide. "And it is all about making the case for why we need Joe Biden in this moment and why Donald Trump has failed."

Harris will make history as the first Black and South Asian woman to participate in a general election debate.

Read more here.

7:20 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Pence's debate style is expected to be much different than Trump's

From CNN's Ryan Nobles

More than a week ago Americans saw a combative Donald Trump aggressively attack Joe Biden, cut him off and spend the entire debate in a confrontational posture. Mike Pence will be much different.

Expect Pence to abide by the rules, speak in an even handed manner and find ways to make his points with a measured tone.

Aides say he will still “prosecute” the case against Kamala Harris and won’t be afraid to return fire when given the opportunity. The difference will be he will do so with a smile.

7:18 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Biden campaign highlights historic nature of Harris' nomination in new ads 

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

Joe Biden's presidential campaign on Tuesday released a set of nationwide ads featuring only California Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic ticket's vice-presidential candidate, ahead of her face off with Vice President Mike Pence at the debate in Salt Lake City.

It's her second solo rollout of nationwide paid ads on the Biden-Harris campaign, and will air on television, radio and digital and highlights the historic nature of her nomination as the first Black and South Asian woman on a major party's presidential ticket

The ads, viewed first by CNN, are aimed at engaging Black voters — particularly in battleground states — in an effort to elevate participation in the campaign. And they're part of the ticket's weekly seven-figure investment in outreach in battleground states in an effort to provide additional "information and messaging" around the vice presidential debate about Harris' candidacy, according to a campaign aide.

The ads will be released nationwide with an emphasis on Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Georgia, among other states, the aide said.

One 30-second spot, called "Mirrors," is a nod to the barrier breaking nature of Harris' nomination as the first Black and South Asian woman on a major party's presidential ticket. It shows an elementary school aged Black girl watching footage of Harris' selection on her couch with a female narrator calling it a "historic decision."

The small girl reacts in complete awe and then the video shows her on stage, with the message "On November 3rd, vote for her" in bold white letters appearing over her.

"Our time is now," the young girl declares.

It's akin to a message both Harris and Biden have sought to magnify — the positive impact that the representation of the nation's first Black and South Asian woman on a major party's presidential ticket provides to young women of color.

A day after the announcement, Biden framed his selection as providing little Black and Brown girls who often feel undervalued overlooked to have the ability to see "themselves for the first time in a new way. As the stuff of presidents and vice presidents."

Read more here.

7:10 p.m. ET, October 7, 2020

Taylor Swift says she is voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris this election

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Taylor Swift attends the 2019 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Taylor Swift attends the 2019 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Rich Fury/Getty Images

Taylor Swift said Wednesday she is voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in this year’s presidential election. 

“The change we need most is to elect a president who recognizes that people of color deserve to feel safe and represented, that women deserve the right to choose what happens to their bodies, and that the LGBTQIA+ community deserves to be acknowledged and included. Everyone deserves a government that takes global health risks seriously and puts the lives of its people first. The only way we can begin to make things better is to choose leaders who are willing to face these issues and find ways to work through them,” Swift said in an interview with V Magazine

“I will proudly vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in this year’s presidential election,” Swift said. “Under their leadership, I believe America has a chance to start the healing process it so desperately needs.”

Swift tweeted that she was going to be watching tonight's vice presidential debate between Harris and Vice President Mike Pence. 

“Gonna be watching and supporting @KamalaHarris by yelling at the tv a lot,” Swift tweeted. She included a photo of herself holding her “custom cookies” decorated with the “Biden Harris 2020” logo. 

Swift broke her career-long silence on politics in 2018, when she endorsed two Democratic candidates in Tennessee who were running for the US Senate and House of Representatives. She spoke about her decision to weigh in on politics in the 2020 Netflix documentary, “Taylor Swift: Miss Americana,” in which she said she regretted not speaking out against Trump in 2016. In the documentary, Swift spoke out against Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s conservative record and described her as “Trump in a wig.”

2:23 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020

These are the Covid-19 measures that will be in place at tonight's debate

From CNN's Dan Merica

Workers clean protective plastic panels onstage between tables for Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris, as preparations take place for the vice presidential debate at the University of Utah on Tuesday in Salt Lake City.
Workers clean protective plastic panels onstage between tables for Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris, as preparations take place for the vice presidential debate at the University of Utah on Tuesday in Salt Lake City. Patrick Semansky/AP

Mike Pence's team agreed Tuesday night to allow the Commission on Presidential Debates to erect an acrylic glass barrier near the vice president for tonight's debate in Salt Lake City, a Pence aide and commission member told CNN, bringing an end for now the negotiations over coronavirus safety precautions around the contest.

Pence's team made it clear throughout the week that they thought putting any acrylic glass barriers near the vice president was unnecessary and that they opposed such a move.

Sen. Kamala Harris' team, however, wanted the acrylic glass barriers, in part, because of the ongoing spread of coronavirus inside the White House and the fact that Pence attended a Rose Garden event over a week ago that may have been the genesis of the spread. Pence has since repeatedly tested negative for the virus.

Physical barriers are typically recommended when social distancing cannot be maintained. The candidates will be separated by 12 feet on stage. Masks are considered the best defense against both droplet and aerosolized transmission of the virus.

A member of the commission said the decision came on Tuesday evening, adding that there will now be two curved plexiglass barriers between Pence and Harris, one close to the vice president and one close to the California senator.

The commission member said the Pence team agreed Tuesday evening that "if (Harris) feels safer having it up on her side, they will leave it up on his side."

Pence and Harris have tested negative for coronavirus ahead of tonight's showdown.

Debate organizers are requiring that anyone in the hall other than the candidates and the moderator must wear a face mask, all of which came after they were advised to make changes by their medical advisers at the Cleveland Clinic.

Some debate background: The addition of the acrylic glass barriers to the debate tonight is the latest sign of how the ongoing coronavirus outbreak inside the Trump administration has reshaped the final month of the presidential campaign.

The health decisions made for the vice presidential debate tonight will certainly hang over the two future presidential debates — one in Miami on Oct. 15 and another in Nashville on Oct. 22.

Trump has said that he plans to show up for the forthcoming debates despite his positive coronavirus diagnosis, leading debate organizers to consider a host of contingencies for how to host each debate safely. One possible option is to hold the debates virtually.

Read more here.

2:21 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Pence and Harris face off tonight. Here are some key things to watch for.

From CNN's Eric Bradner, Gregory Krieg and Dan Merica

Getty Images
Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence and his Democratic rival, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, will meet in Utah on tonight for the only vice presidential debate of the campaign.

Their showdown comes with the highest stakes for a vice presidential debate in recent memory, in part because President Trump's coronavirus diagnosis has made it unclear if and how additional presidential debates will take place.

It will also mark a historic moment, as Harris becomes the first Black and South Asian woman to participate in a general election presidential campaign debate.

Pence and Harris share tickets with two of the oldest men to run for president — the 74-year-old Trump and the 77-year-old Democratic nominee, Joe Biden — putting an extra emphasis on their roles as the second in command.

Here are things to look for in tonight's vice presidential debate:

  • Distance and acrylic glass barriers: Even before the pandemic is mentioned at tonight's debate, its presence will be obvious. Debate organizers, in response to the spread of the coronavirus inside the White House and the fact that Pence was at an event that was seemingly the genesis of the White House spread just over a week ago, made a number of changes to their safety protocols, including putting Pence and Harris more than 12 feet apart, using acrylic glass barriers between the candidates and requiring everyone in the audience wear masks. Pence's team challenged the installation of acrylic glass barriers around him at the debate after the commission announced that they would be used, before ultimately agreeing to their installation. But their resistance highlighted how the Trump campaign wants to avoid the omnipresence of coronavirus and the worry among some in the President's orbit that it could set a precedent for the forthcoming debates between Trump and Biden.
  • Harris' challenge on coronavirus: Trump has tried to cast his Covid diagnosis and supposed recovery as a bonus. In his telling, he's a fearless leader who took on the virus and triumphed — setting a model for bravery in the face of a pandemic. For Harris, the challenge is to use this massive stage and draw a line — clear enough for anyone to see and impossible to ignore — from Trump's handling of the pandemic as President to the growing fiasco inside his administration. She must do this while the President's own prognosis remains unknown. And even if, as Biden said on Monday night, his infection is largely the result of his own refusal to follow standard safety procedures, personal broadsides against him while he is battling the virus could carry some potential risk.
  • Pence needs to project calm: It has been a chaotic week for the Trump campaign, punctuated by the President himself testing positive for the virus and spending three days in the hospital but beginning with a frenzied debate between the President and Biden. Pence's goals in tonight's debate are to project a calm that Trump was unable to signal last week, while defending the administration's handling of the pandemic and delivering the Trump campaign's messaging that the virus should not dominate American life. It's a difficult task: More than 210,000 Americans have died from the virus, small businesses across the country have been decimated and the prospect of more economic stimulus for Americans was rejected on Tuesday evening when the President urged Republicans to walk away from negotiations with Democrats, tanking the stock market. But Pence, according to people who know him well or have debated him in the past, is one of the most skilled politicians at redirecting a question to a topic he wants to focus on.

Read the full story here.