The news media has not paid much attention to vice presidential debate matters — until now. Though the two contenders will be 12 feet apart and separated by Plexiglas, the showdown Wednesday between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala D. Harris is being treated like the cage match of the century.
The debate harbors “sky-high stakes,” The New York Times said in its lead-up to a big event that used to be a little event.
“President Trump’s diagnosis with a potentially lethal virus — and the fact that he is 74 and his Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., is 77 — was a stark reminder that either Mr. Pence or Ms. Harris could end up being president themselves, as opposed to just leading contenders for the nomination in 2024 and beyond,” The Times said.
“Mike Pence and Kamala Harris will take the stage under extraordinary circumstances that will elevate the oft-forgotten vice presidential debate to the highest-stakes running mate matchup in years,” declared Bloomberg News.
USA Today billed the encounter as “the prosecutor vs. the king of sound bites.”
Susan Page — USA Today’s Washington Bureau chief — will serve as moderator. It is of note that Ms. Page is currently at work on a book titled “Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi / Lessons of Power,” a 432-page biography set to be published in six months.
CNN declared that this vice presidential debate will differ from those before it.
“Americans will not just be weighing arguments. Now, more than ever, they will be closely evaluating these contenders as potential occupants of the Oval Office,” the network said.
“The vice presidential debate is usually a snoozefest, but Wednesday’s event is taking place during a global pandemic, an economic downturn and a political season that feels like a soap opera, Suddenly humdrum becomes must-see TV,” noted The Salt Lake City Tribune, which pointed out that previous vice presidential matches have had their moments.
“The most-watched V.P. debate in history was held in 2008 between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Sarah Palin, when 69.9 million people tuned in,” the Tribune advised.
A DOCTOR’S PRESCRIPTION FOR THE PRESS
“President Trump continues to make progress as he receives treatment for COVID-19. He has a 99% survival rate according to the data but in reality it may be higher,” writes Dr. Martin Makary, professor of surgery and health policy at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in an essay for Fox News.
He cites Mr. Trump use of appropriate medications and the “dream team” of medical professionals who are tending him. He also cites “allegations by the media” that there is not enough information about Mr. Trump’s progress, recommending that the press must allow the attending medical personnel to “do their job without pressuring them for updates every 15 minutes.”
Yes. Now wouldn’t that be nice.
“Some in the media are demanding more information about the president’s health as if his doctors should map the president’s entire genome and post it on the Internet. But at this point, Mr. Trump’s condition is well-described and his prognosis appears to be excellent,” Dr. Makary advises.
NOW THERE’S A THOUGHT
“Trump tests positive for fearlessness,” notes Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, in an essay released by the grassroots organization Tuesday, addressing the complex burdens of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We all need to take our cue from this president and stare down these challenges with boldness,” Mr. Perkins says.
STILL UP FOR GRABS
There are still a bunch of undecided, apathetic voters out there. A new poll released Tuesday by CNN reveals that 90% of all voters have already made up their mind whom they will vote for in the presidential election. That includes 92% of Republicans and 96% of Democrats, as well as 95% of liberals and 91% of conservatives.
The poll also reveals that 82% of independents say they’ve made up their mind, along with 87% of moderates.
Which means there’s an opportunity for clever strategists to sway those put off by elections for multiple reasons.
And to explain those reasons, we turn to the Pew Research Center, which in 2017 analyzed U.S. Census “nonvoter” data released after the 2016 presidential election. The pollster found that “dislike” of candidates and campaign issues was the biggest motivation to sit out the election, cited by 25% of nonvoters at the time.
Another 15% said they felt their vote did not make a difference, 14% were sick or disabled, 11% cited “other reasons,” 8% were out of town, 4% had trouble getting registered, 3% forgot to vote, 3% had transportation problems and 2% said polling location and hours were inconvenient.
So there you are, strategists. Now go craft some communications to reach out to this segment of the voting population.
Fox News continues to dominate its cable news rivals, as it has done for over 18 consecutive years. But Fox News also moved in on broadcast territory during the week of Sept. 28- Oct. 4, ranking second across prime-time television, bested only by ABC according to Nielsen Media Research.
Fox News drew 5.4 million prime-time viewers, compared to CNN with 2.8 million and MSNBC with 2.7 million. Fox News also drew a record-setting 17.9 million viewers for the first debate between President Trump and Democrat Joseph R. Biden last week.
POLL DU JOUR
• 60% of registered U.S. voters are “very” or “somewhat” confident their vote for president will be accurately cast and counted; 47% of Republicans, 56% of independents and 74% of Democrats agree.
• 45% of conservatives, 65% of moderates and 69% of liberals also agree.
• 24% overall are “not too confident”; 28% of Republicans, 24% of independents and 20% of Democrats agree.
• 30% of conservatives, 22% of moderates and 21% of liberals also agree.
• 15% are “not at all confident”; 23% of Republicans, 17% of independents and 6% of Democrats agree.
• 23% of conservatives, 12% of moderates and 10% of liberals also agree.
Source: A CNN/SSRS poll of 1,095 registered U.S. voters conducted Oct. 1-4.
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