Pence and Harris Teams at Odds Over Plexiglass at Debate

Vice President Mike Pence is requesting that no plexiglass dividers be placed on his side of the stage at Wednesday night’s vice-presidential debate, after an announcement Monday by the Commission on Presidential Debates that dividers had been agreed to as a safety measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff, said the vice president’s team does not view plexiglass dividers as medically necessary, given other safety measures at the debate, including a 12-foot distance between Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and daily testing of both candidates.

The commission and the Biden campaign both said Tuesday they understood that the Pence team was in agreement with the notion of plexiglass barriers. But the Pence team suggested they did not want any such dividers around the vice president, regardless of what Harris does.

“If she wants it, she’s more than welcome to surround herself with plexiglass if that makes her feel more comfortable,” Short said. “It’s not needed.”

The issue was expected to come up for discussion at a meeting between the two campaigns and the commission later Tuesday.

The dispute plays into a larger clash of messages between the Trump and Biden campaigns. Trump argues that the coronavirus has largely been conquered and there is no need for burdensome restrictions; Biden’s campaign is based largely on a critique of the president’s handling of the pandemic. For both sides, plexiglass dividers could be seen as a symbol of the continued threat posed by the virus.

The Commission on Presidential Debates has not yet announced the final design for the stage. Both campaigns agreed last week to extend the distance between Pence and Harris from about seven feet to 12 feet.

The Trump campaign has also resisted a request by the Biden campaign that both candidates stand during the debate. The current plan has them sitting at separate tables.

The Biden camp has sought to stress that it is following the science, including the guidelines provided by the Cleveland Clinic, the medical adviser to the debates.

“The Cleveland Clinic is responsible for the safety of the debate. We will abide by their determination on safety measures,” said a Biden campaign official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss deliberations. “All questions about the adequacy of the safety measures should be addressed to the Cleveland Clinic.”

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Source: Houston Chronicle