It's Kamala's time to shine tonight in Salt Lake City at the only vice-presidential debate, and it's not hard to guess that Mike Pence is going to be very uncomfortable.
Pence hasn't had to face a lot of questions in front of a national audience since the last vice-presidential debate in which he faced off with everyone's nice but dorky uncle Tim Kaine. Going to toe-to-toe — with plexiglass protection — with America's cool aunt Kamala is a whole new ballgame for the Christian conservative VP who reportedly doesn't feel comfortable being alone in a room with a woman who's not his wife.
They won't be alone of course. Moderator Susan Page, USA Today's Washington Bureau Chief, will be there, along with a smattering of press and other attendees, all of whom were recently tested for COVID and will be masked. And, after the Trump family defied the rules at the last debate and sat in the audience unmasked, the Commission on Presidential Debates has said that anyone not wearing a mask will be "escorted out" of the event.
Harris's team made a request earlier this week that in addition to more than 12 feet of distance between the candidates on the debate stage, there should be a plexiglass barrier between them as well. Pence's team, of course, objected, calling the divider "medically unnecessary," but the Commission had already approved the Harris team's request.
Pence has repeatedly tested negative for COVID-19 since the revelation of President Trump's diagnosis last week, and since then at least 30 people — many of whom attended a tightly packed Rose Garden ceremony and an indoor reception that followed, unmasked — to announce the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett.
About 400 people work in the White House, and so far the administration is refusing to conduct any contact tracing to identify any further possible infections from this super-spreader event — which the mayor of D.C. has called the biggest single one in the city since the pandemic began.
As the New York Times notes, Senator Harris will be held to a different standard than her male colleagues when it comes to how she conducts herself in the debate, and she surely knows that by now. In the primary debates, her mission was simply to stand out in a crowd of contenders, some of whom had clearer messages and personal brands. Tonight, all she has to do is crush Mike Pence like the seasoned prosecutor that she is, without making America's suburban women and insecure men feel bad for him.
Hillary Clinton spoke frankly to Harris on Clinton's new podcast recently about what to expect at the debate. "You should also be prepared for the slights, the efforts to diminish you personally, you as a woman." She added, "I do think that there will be a lot of maneuvering on the other side to try to put you in a box."
Also, let this sink in: Harris is only the third woman ever to participate in a nationally televised vice-presidential debate.
The 90-minute debate kicks off live at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on multiple channels and live on YouTube. Take a shot every time she mentions Oakland!!
Top photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images