What to expect during the Vice Presidential Debate

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The Vice-Presidential Debate promises to be a high-stakes event considering the especially volatile nature of this election season. It’s the only time Vice President Mike Pence and Democrat Kamala Harris will meet. We spoke with ASU Political Science Professor Kim Fridkin about what to look for in the debate.

After the first 2020 Presidential Debate, “both candidates know that the voters were pretty disgusted about what happened between Biden and Trump,” Fridkin said. “I think everyone’s going to be a lot more civil in the debate. Both candidates have a different message that they need to get across, a different strategy.”

This Vice Presidential Debate may be more important than usual, especially with this pair of candidates.

“Both [presidential] candidates are in their 70s. Trump has COVID right now. I don’t think we’ve ever had a vice presidential debate where both candidates were elderly,” Fridkin said. “It’s probably even more important for Kamala Harris because people don’t know that much about her so she really has to present herself.”

What kind of points should viewers expect from either side of this debate?

Fridkin noted that there has been a lot of discussion about President Trump’s diagnosis and exactly when he was diagnosed. “Harris might want to push Pence on that because it has ramifications for the next presidential debate.”

“Pence, I think, has a lot more experience debating than Kamala Harris,” Fridkin said. “He might try to keep her off balance and see if he can get her to maybe make a mistake.”

This debate may have an interesting dynamic, Fridkin said. “Kamala Harris being a woman and we haven’t had a woman on stage very often in history. People have their own stereotypes about how to debate a woman. I think that if Pence is overly aggressive, that might not play well because people have stereotypes about how you should debate an opponent.”

Fridkin said those stereotypes could affect Harris as well. “If she kind of defies of stereotypes, that could have negative ramifications as well.”

In the end, how often do voters choose a ticket based on the Vice President?

“Not very often,” Fridkin said. “My only kind of caveat is today we have voting going on [now], some states it’s already started. So maybe people see a debate where one candidate does really well and they fill out their ballot right then.”

Kim Fridkin, ASU Political Science Professor

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