Tonight’s vice presidential debate: What you need to know

A member of the production staff holds a seating chart while putting labels on chairs socially distanced from each other ahead of the vice presidential debate at the University of Utah, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City. Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., will participate in the debate Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Credit: Julio Cortez

Credit: Julio Cortez

Vice President Mike Pence and his Democratic challenger, California Sen. Kamala Harris meet tonight for a debate in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Watch the debate live here:

Here’s what you need to know:

Pence and Harris will stand on stage approximately 12 feet apart, and they will be separated by Plexiglas barriers. The debate audience will be small, and anyone without a mask will be asked to leave, the Associated Press reported.

Reports stated that Pence’s team said the Plexiglas was medically unnecessary, but the Commission on Presidential Debates had already agreed to the barriers.

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Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, said the vice president will not pull out of the debate due to the barriers, stating that the debate is “too important for the American people.” Short suggested that Harris might be hesitant to attend, but Sabrina Singh, a spokeswoman for Harris, said the senator will attend and respect the protections the Cleveland Clinic has put in place for the safety of those in attendance.

The debate comes a day after early voting began in Ohio. Before the polls even opened Tuesday, hundreds waited in a socially distanced line spanning three floors of the Montgomery County Administrative Building and overflowing into the chilly parking garage.

More than 1,750 people voted at the Montgomery County Board of Elections on Tuesday, more than double the number of votes Montgomery County cast on the first day of early voting in 2016.

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More than 350 people voted in Greene County on Tuesday (which election officials said was average), more than 500 in Miami County and more than 1,175 voted in Warren County.

Meanwhile, on the first day absentee ballots (besides those for military and overseas voters) could be mailed to Ohioans, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced that county boards of elections had received a record-setting 2,154,235 absentee ballot applications. That’s nearly double the requests received by the same time during the 2016 election.

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Pence is a 61-year-old former Indiana governor and ex-radio host, an evangelical Christian known for his folksy charm and unwavering loyalty to Trump.

Harris is a 55-year-old California senator, the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother. She also is a former prosecutor whose pointed questioning of Trump’s appointees and court nominees and cool charm on the campaign trail made her a Democratic star.

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Harris will make history as the first Black woman to appear in a vice presidential debate. Democrats hope the historic nature of her candidacy will help energize key groups of likely Democratic voters — African Americans and young people, in particular — who have shown less excitement for Biden.

Gender likely will play a role in the debate, Hillary Clinton, the first woman to lead a major party presidential ticket, said during a recent fundraiser.

She suggested Pence would try to paint Harris as “the inexperienced woman candidate.” Harris will have to be mindful of the double standard for women in politics as she responds, Clinton said.

“She’s got to be firm and effective in rebutting any implication that comes from the other side, but to do it in a way that doesn’t, you know, scare or alienate voters,” Clinton said.

Four years ago, Pence debated Clinton’s running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine.

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