The Hill’s Campaign Report: Pence, Harris square off in Salt Lake City

Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, your daily rundown on all the latest news in the 2020 presidential, Senate and House races. Did someone forward this to you? Click here to subscribe.

We’re Julia Manchester, Max Greenwood and Jonathan Easley. Here’s what we’re watching today on the campaign trail:



Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisOvernight Defense: Top military officers quarantine after positive COVID case | Distracted pilot, tech issues led to F-35 crash It matters: Kamala Harris and the VP debate CDC director says it’s safe for Pence to take part in debate MORE (D-Calif.) will face off with plexiglass between them at the first and only vice presidential debate on Wednesday night.

The stage in the mostly empty auditorium in Salt Lake City will look unusual, as the candidates will be seated 13 feet apart and see-through barriers are being erected to protect them from the coronavirus.

The pandemic is hanging over the debate, as the virus has ripped through the West Wing, the Trump campaign and stricken three GOP senators.

Both Pence and Harris tested negative for the coronavirus on Wednesday.

The pressure is on Pence to right the ship as Trump’s polling numbers against Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump and Biden’s plans would both add to the debt, analysis finds Trump says he will back specific relief measures hours after halting talks Chance the Rapper, Demi Lovato to play digital concert to encourage voting MORE appear to be in free fall.

Trump has had a tumultuous few weeks. He appears to have done considerable damage to his hopes for a second term thanks to his performance in the first debate against Biden, with polls showing many viewers being turned off by his interrupting and hectoring of the former vice president.

Since then, he has been hospitalized with the coronavirus and scuttled negotiations over a new coronavirus relief package on Capitol Hill.


A new national survey from conservative-leaning Rasmussen, which generally finds Trump doing much better than in other polls, finds the president trailing by 12 points.

Still, it’s not clear that vice presidential debates have much of an impact on the state of the race.

Wednesday night’s debate will be moderated by USA Today’s Washington bureau chief Susan Page, who will try to avoid the fate of Fox News Channel’s Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceBiden: ‘We shouldn’t have’ second debate if Trump still has COVID-19 Trump’s claims on lowering prescription drug prices are only campaign rhetoric Biden again tests negative for COVID-19 MORE, whose handling of the first presidential debate was a big story.

The vice presidential debate starts at 9 p.m. EDT and will be divided into nine segments lasting for about 10 minutes each.

After tonight, the attention will turn to the presidential debate scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami.

The president says he intends to participate in person. Biden has implied that he will as well, so long as medical professionals sign off on him going.

Trump’s doctor said Wednesday the president is feeling “great” and isn’t experiencing any symptoms.



Five things to watch for at the 2020 vice presidential debate, by Max Greenwood.

Team Trump looks to Pence to steady the ship, by Niall Stanage.

Harris faces biggest test yet, by Amie Parnes.

Trump’s health looms over fate of second debate, by Brett Samuels.


Tomorrow after the vice presidential debate both campaigns will hit the ground in the critical swing state of Arizona. 

Biden and Harris will make their first stop of the year in the state as a presidential ticket, and are set to meet with Native American tribal leaders in Phoenix before they start their “Soul of the Nation” bus tour in the state. 

Meanwhile, Pence will make his fourth visit to the state on Thursday, headlining a “Make American Great Again” rally in Peoria. 

The dueling visits show how important Arizona will be in November.  Trump defeated Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChance the Rapper, Demi Lovato to play digital concert to encourage voting New York Times editorial board endorses Biden The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by Facebook – Trump resumes maskless COVID-19 recovery at White House MORE there by roughly 4 points in 2016, but polling shows the president is behind four years later. 

A New York Times-Sienna College poll released on Monday had Biden leading Trump by 8 points, 49 percent to 41 percent. 

On top of that, a new OH Predictive Insights poll of the state’s 6th District, which Trump won by 11 points in 2016, shows Trump and Biden within 1 point of each other. The district makes up Scottsdale and the more affluent Phoenix suburbs.


Biden leads Trump by 3.4 points in the RealClearPolitics average of Arizona polls taken so far in the campaign. 


A lot of new polling out today and little of it is good for Trump…

Quinnipiac University released a trio of awful polls for the president, finding him trailing by double-digits in both Florida and Pennsylvania. It seems unimaginable that a candidate could win Florida, which generally turns on a point or two, by double-digits. Quinnipiac found Biden ahead by 11 in Florida, while a Reuters-Ipsos survey put his lead at 4 points.

In Pennsylvania, which Trump carried by less than 1 point in 2016, Quinnipiac found Biden ahead by 13 points. The survey found Biden leading Trump by 5 points in Iowa, which the president carried by 9 points in 2016.

A Marquette University survey found Biden leading Trump by 5 points in Wisconsin. Reuters-Ipsos found Biden ahead by 2 points in Arizona. In Ohio, an unexpected battleground that Trump carried by 8 points in 2016, Biden leads by 1 point in the latest New York Times-Siena College poll. The same pollsters find Biden ahead by 6 points in Nevada, a state Democrat Hillary Clinton carried narrowly in 2016.


But the Rasmussen national poll is getting the most attention today. Trump has in the past pointed to Rasmussen as evidence of bias in other pollsters. The survey has found Biden’s lead in recent weeks has grown from 1 point to 8 points to 12 points in the latest. Biden now leads by 9.3 points in the RealClearPolitics average, up from 6.1 only two weeks ago.


The Army Reserve has opened an investigation into North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham following an admission that he exchanged romantic text messages with the wife of a combat veteran. Cunningham is an Iraq War veteran himself and is currently a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. 

“The Army Reserve is investigating the matters involving Lt. Col. James Cunningham,” Army Reserve spokesman Lt. Col. Simon Flake told The Hill. “As such, we are unable to provide further details at this time.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Cunningham’s campaign said that he would participation in the investigation but argued that the probe did not change the core message of his campaign:

“Cal will participate in this process, but it does not change the stakes of this election or the need for new leaders who will fight for the issues North Carolinians care about instead of caving to the corporate special interests — which is exactly what Senator Tillis has done in his years in Washington.”

The race between Cunningham and Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisDemocratic Rep. Carbajal tests positive for COVID-19 McConnell: Plan is to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court pick before election Messages show Cunningham’s extramarital relationship continued until at least July: AP MORE (R-N.C.) is among the most closely  watched down-ballot races in the country and could very well decide which party will control the Senate next year. Most polls show Cunningham with a single-digit lead in the race, but the text messages threaten to upend the campaign of one of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s top recruits of the 2020 cycle.

The Hill’s Jordan Williams has the latest on the Army Reserve’s investigation here.

Some better news for Democrats out of South Carolina…The Cook Political Report moved the race between Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWarner calls for Facebook, Twitter and Google to safeguard against election disinformation Pence wants no plexiglass at upcoming VP debate 21 GOP lieutenant governors sign letter backing Barrett confirmation MORE (R-S.C.) and Democrat Jaime Harrison to its “toss-up” column on Wednesday. That’s a big deal, given South Carolina’s deep-red hue and the fact that it hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate in more than 20 years. More on Cook’s rating change here.