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Trump’s diagnosis pushes VP candidates apart but debate on track

Pence is expected to push a message the Trump campaign has been repeatedly promoting on cable news over the past few days — that the President’s COVID-19 diagnosis gives him the ability to empathise with Americans affected by the virus in a way that Biden cannot.

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen prepare to address the media as he leaves Washington for Utah where the vice-presidential debate will take place.

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen prepare to address the media as he leaves Washington for Utah where the vice-presidential debate will take place.Credit:AP

The Vice-President, who heads Trump’s coronavirus taskforce, is also expected to highlight the work taking place behind the scenes to develop a vaccine in record time through the multibillion-dollar initiative, Operation Warp Speed.

Meanwhile, Harris, a senator and former prosecutor, is expected to attack the recklessness of the Trump administration, highlight access to healthcare for ordinary Americans, and promote Biden’s coronavirus plan, which includes a national mask mandate in cooperation with the states.

Mike Pence is scheduled to debate Kamala Harris on Thrusday (AEST).

Mike Pence is scheduled to debate Kamala Harris on Thrusday (AEST).Credit:AP

The debate will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah, merely days after Trump, who is still being treated for the disease, was discharged from hospital to return to the White House.

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First lady Melania Trump, campaign manager Bill Stepien, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, senior aide Hope Hicks and former adviser Kellyanne Conway are among a growing list of people within the President’s orbit who have also tested positive.

Despite the setback, Trump’s team has continued to campaign aggressively in recent days, launching “Operation MAGA” — a “full marshalling of top-level surrogates, campaign coalitions and Trump supporters to rally behind the President and carry the campaign forward”.

Pence has also been active in the wake of the Trump’s diagnosis and has declined to self-quarantine. According to the campaign, he is due to “begin a swing through key states following Wednesday’s debate”, including an event in his home state of Indiana and another in Arizona.

The tone of Trump’s fundraising campaign does not appear to have shifted either, with one email sent out in the immediate aftermath of the President’s diagnosis referring to “Lyin’ Obama”, “Phony Kamala Harris” and “Joe, who is probably already asleep in his basement”.

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