United States Vice President Mike Pence and his Democratic challenger Senator Kamala Harris are all set for a crucial debate, which comes as Donald Trump is ill with coronavirus that has claimed over 200,000 American lives and battered the country's economy.
Harris, whose mother was from India and father from Jamaica, scripted history in August when she was picked up by the Democratic Party as its vice presidential nominee. She is the first Black woman and the first Asian-American woman to be selected as the vice presidential nominee of a major political party in the United States.
It will be for the first time in the American history that an Indian-origin person will be taking up the podium for a vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City, Utah on Wednesday night.
Political analysts believe that an aggressive Harris, 55, who aspires to be the first woman vice-president in history, will easily prevail over Pence, 61, during the only vice-presidential debate and help Biden, 77, to widen his lead over Trump, 74.
The debate comes nearly a week after the first of the three presidential debates in Cleveland on September 29 wherein Biden termed Trump a "liar" and a "clown" as the two candidates fiercely clashed over a number of issues, including racism, economy and climate.
Following the first presidential debate, Trump was tested COVID-19 positive and admitted to a military hospital, a development that upended his hectic campaign just weeks before the presidential elections on November 3. He returned to the White House on Monday night after spending four days at the hospital, but his doctors say the president may not entirely be out of the woods.
Biden, in the last few days, has widened his lead over Trump by double digit. However, the Trump campaign believes that Pence could come out with a stellar performance during the debate.
The debate gains added significance, given the COVID-19 infecting Trump, triggering speculation that Pence may be taking over the reigns of the country temporarily.
Also, many believe that Harris will be the real force in a Biden administration.
Both Pence and Harris have said that they are well prepared for the debate, which would be moderated by journalist Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief, USA Today. While the debate will likely cover a range of topics, the COVID-19 pandemic will be at the forefront.
According to reports, plexiglass will be installed between Pence and Harris who will stand 12.25 feet apart on the debate stage.
"The debates are a crucial part of making our democracy work and I am honoured to participate," Page said in a statement.
The debate will be divided into nine segments of approximately 10 minutes each, said the Commission on Presidential Debate. The moderator will ask an opening question after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond.
The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic, it said.
"We're looking very much forward to the vice-presidential debate," Pence told reporters at the Andrews Joint Air Force Base.
"The stakes in this election have never been higher, the choice has never been clearer, and I look forward to the opportunity to take our case to the American people for four more years for President Trump in the White House," he said.
Pence spoke over the phone with Trump before boarding Air Force Two. "I spoke to the President a little while back and he sounded great. As the American people learned just a little while ago, President Trump is going home tonight. So, we're headed to Utah for the vice presidential debate," he said.
According to his aides, Pence has some debate preparations. On Sunday Harris toured This Is The Place Monument, the location marking the end of the 1,300-mile trek to Utah by the early Mormons.
Harris was led by former Utah State Senator Scott Howell on the tour of the monument, which was erected in 1847 and also honours the Native Americans, Mountain Men and Spanish Catholic priests who explored the land before the settlement was established.
Former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said it would be a real mistake to underestimate the skills of Pence. Buttigieg is apparently helping Harris in debate preparations.
"He was very effective in 2016. And also in his debates, if you look in 2012, when he was running for governor, it would be a real mistake to underestimate. Largely because he doesn't seem to have any qualms about defending what many of us would consider indefensible, even if it flies in the face of his own professed values," he told Indianapolis Monthly in an interview.
Ajay Jain Bhutoria, member, national finance committee, Biden Campaign, said it will be an "unprecedented debate" in an unprecedented year.
This will be historic because Harris is the first Black woman and person of the Indian descent nominated for vice president by a major party and because of the circumstances facing the country, he said.
Harris maintained an ability to excite Democratic voters across the country and for all age groups, especially Among African Americans, Latinos, and Indian Americans, her spirited interrogations of Trump appointees as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he said.
She is tough on law and order stance and how she has fought inequality all her adult life, he said, adding that along with Biden, Harris will grow the Indo-US relations more stronger than ever.