SALT LAKE CITY — USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page will moderate the vice presidential debate between Republican Vice President Mike Pence and the Democratic nominee, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, that’s being held Oct. 7 at the University of Utah.
“The debates are a crucial part of making our democracy work, and I am honored to participate,” Page said after The Commission on Presidential Debates made the announcement Wednesday.
An estimated 100 million viewers around the world are expected to watch the vice presidential candidates debate at Kingsbury Hall before a live audience of invited guests expected to be limited in size because of health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jason Perry, the U. vice president of government relations and Hinckley Institute of Politics director who serves as chairman of the campus’ debate steering committee, praised the selection of Page to moderate what will be the state’s first-ever debate in a presidential race.
“As we work toward this historic debate, it is exciting to see some of the final details coming together. Susan Page is a seasoned journalist with a deep knowledge of the presidency. Her experience covering politics and policy will undoubtedly guide a thoughtful debate on critical issues facing our nation,” Perry said.
Utah’s K-12 and college students are being asked to answer the question, “If you could ask the vice-presidential candidates one question, what would you ask and why?” as part of a statewide essay contest. Entries are limited to 300 words and must be submitted by Sept. 11 to debate2020.utah.edu/student-essay-contest.
The essays will be judged by the Utah Debate Commission and officials at the University of Utah. The winners will be published in the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune and also may be submitted to Page to be considered as potential debate questions.
In addition to naming Page, who has covered 10 presidential campaigns and six White House administrations, as the host of the only vice presidential debate, the presidential debate commission also announced the moderators for its three presidential debates.
Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday, will moderate the first debate on Sept. 29 at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio; Steve Scully, C-SPAN executive producer and political editor will moderate the second debate on Oct. 15 at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami; and Kristen Welker, NBC White House correspondent and Weekend Today co-anchor, will moderate the third on Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Nashville.
“We are grateful to these experienced journalists, who will help ensure that the general election presidential debates continue to serve their unique educational purpose of helping the public learn about the candidates,” the nonpartisan commission co-chairpersons said in a statement.
“Each individual brings great professionalism to moderating and understands that the purpose of the 2020 debate formats is to facilitate in-depth discussion of major topics,” the statement from Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., Dorothy S. Ridings and Kenneth Wollack said.
All of the debates are set to air from 7-8:30 p.m. MDT without commercials, and the moderators alone will select the questions.
The vice presidential debate will be divided into nine segments of approximately 10 minutes each, starting with an opening question that each candidate has two minutes to respond to before the moderator is to probe “for a deeper discussion of the topic.”
Both the first and third presidential debates will follow a similar format. The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which the questions will be posed by uncommitted voters from the South Florida area.