Tonight’s televised face-off between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris “is the most important vice presidential debate we’ve ever had,” says Todd Graham, the director of debate at Southern Illinois University and an expert in political debates.
With President Donald Trump in his mid-70s and Joe Biden in his late 70s, Pence and Harris already were prepping to prove they could step into the top job. But the burden of defending their ticket is even heavier given the chaos of last week’s presidential debate — which allowed for almost zero policy discussion — and Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis — which leaves a real question about whether his scheduled second and third debates with Biden will happen.
Graham expects the vice presidential candidate debate to have the decorum we didn’t see at last week’s presidential showdown: “We’ve seen evidence that they can debate for 90 minutes without getting out of hand and constantly interrupting one another. They’ve both proven themselves to understand the value of debate, more than our current president has so I do believe it will be better."
The Tribune’s Rick Pearson writes: “The specter of a tax on retirement benefits in Illinois being raised by opponents of a proposed graduated-rate income tax amendment has prompted an outcry from leading seniors' groups that are backing the proposal.” They say it’s all an attempt to mislead older voters.
And Gov. J.B. Pritzker, still in quarantine after a top staffer tested positive for COVID-19, told reporters today he’s tested negative for the virus. The Democratic governor, who calls Chicago home, made the comments at a virtual news conference, joking that he, his wife and their two children, who are at home e-learning, are seeing a lot more of one another.
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Viewers should expect to see a mix of policy talk along with the expected rhetoric from Pence, a one-time talk show host, and Harris, a California U.S. senator who regularly taps into her former life as a prosecutor to argue a point.
What to expect from Pence: Now that he has four years under his belt, Pence will likely find himself defending the Trump White House’s record while touting Mideast peace efforts and touting pre-pandemic successes. Graham said “his best move is to go on the offense," taking aim at Biden’s long tenure in the U.S. Senate. Also look for Pence to "attack some obscure thing Kamala Harris did or not even something she did but something that happened in the attorney general’s office” in California when she was at the helm.
What to expect from Harris: “She will attack Donald Trump time and time again,” Graham said, noting that front and center will be the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19. Online news outlet Axios reported this morning that Harris is expected to zero in on Pence’s role as head of the White House’s COVID-19 task force, and paint him and the president as failed leaders in responding to the deadly outbreak in the U.S.
All roads lead to COVID-19? While the topics haven’t been disclosed, the debate format will be divided into nine 10-minute segments, The New York Times reports. “Kamala Harris will be trying to tie all of the topics to coronavirus and rightfully so, if you list any topic for me right now I promise you, within six degrees of Kevin Bacon, I can get you to the coronavirus in a second,” Graham says.
Posturing: We’ve heard a lot about the Plexiglas going up between the candidates, a COVID-19 safety precaution, but not a lot about how the two will be seated at tonight’s debate, something Graham said could level the playing field for both candidates.
Graham said Republicans likely requested the candidates sit because Pence could come off as timid versus Harris, who proved to be a powerful orator in the Democratic presidential debates.
On the other hand, given the sexist view of seeing assertive women as overly aggressive, “I think Kamala Harris seated will actually make her assertiveness not seem overboard to people who might be a little bit sexist,” Graham said.
How to watch: The debate gets underway at 8 p.m. Chicago time on the major broadcast and cable news outlets. Learn where to stream here.
From The Associated Press: "The White House on Wednesday tried to salvage its favorite items lost in the rubble of COVID-19 relief talks that President Donald Trump blew up, with his administration pressing for $1,200 stimulus checks and a new wave of aid for airlines and other businesses hard hit by the pandemic.
“As part of a barrage of tweets and retweets, Trump pressed for passage of these chunks of assistance, an about-face from his abrupt and puzzling move on Tuesday afternoon to abandon talks with a longtime rival, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The California Democrat has rejected such piecemeal entreaties all along.”
The president called on Congress to send him a “Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200)” — a reference to a preelection batch of direct payments to most Americans that had been a central piece of negotiations between Pelosi and the White House.
Left out of the tweets is any discussion of aid to states and cities, save for this: “Nancy Pelosi is asking for $2.4 Trillion Dollars to bailout poorly run, high crime, Democrat States, money that is in no way related to COVID-19.1/4 u2033
Mayor Lightfoot isn’t optimistic the federal government will hammer another stimulus package before she delivers her 2021 budget to City Council in the coming weeks. Staring down a $1.2 billion budget hole, it might have helped. “Not only will be a missed opportunity, but I think candidly, it will be turning it a back on people at a time we are all desperately in need of additional resources,” Lightfoot said, saying that states and cities with leader in both parties need the assist. “I hope that doesn’t happen. But my optimism for a deal getting done really has grown to the single digits.”
Also: Recovering from virus, Trump goes to Oval Office - Read the Associated Press story here.
COVID-19 in Illinois: State health officials announced 2,630 new known cases of COVID-19 and 42 additional confirmed fatalities today, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 307,641 and the statewide death toll to 8,878 since the start of the pandemic, my Tribune colleagues report. Updates here.
Another financial bite – Illinois annual gambling tax revenues fell $200 million due to pandemic shutdown: The Tribune’s Robert Channick has the details here.
Preflight COVID-19 testing could be landing at O’Hare: The Tribune’s Lisa Schencker has the details here.
“Officials from AARP Illinois, the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans and Jane Addams Seniors in Action contend ... opponents (to the graduated income tax measure on the ballot) are attempting to mislead older voters by saying the proposal could lead to a state tax on retirement benefits. The senior groups are asking that opposition advertising saying as much be taken down.” Read the full story here.
Pearson reminds: "Illinois is one of three states that levies an income tax but does not impose it on retirement income, such as pensions and IRA and 401(k) plans. There is nothing in the language of the proposed amendment that changes state law that prohibits taxing retirement benefits.
“But opponents have seized on an amendment provision that would allow lawmakers to set various tax rates on various incomes as creating the potential for state lawmakers to someday seek to enact a tax on those with large retirement incomes.”
Mayor Lightfoot 'firmly in support’ of graduated income tax, but watching battle 'with great interest’: During a news conference this afternoon the mayor weighed in saying “it doesn’t make sense to me it really never has... that people who make modest income pay the same rate as people who make more."
An attorney who worked as a federal prosecutor as well as career with the behemoth Chicago firm Mayer Brown before becoming mayor, Lightfoot said “I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to make a substantial amount over time. And I think people recognize the need for everyone to pay their fair share.”
Still, the political brawl is an eye-catcher, she says: “I continue to follow with great interest the back and forth.”
Pritzker and Madigan: With the election just weeks away, WTTW-Channel 11 1/4 u2032s Amanda Vinicky posed the best question to Pritzker during today’s virtual news conference: When deciding which Democratic candidate campaigns he’ll help fund, is he having conversations with those candidates about their position on House Speaker Mike Madigan?
The governor certainly skirted the question: “I’m supporting Democrats up and down the ballot all across the state. And so … I’ll continue to do that. My consideration is that the values of Democrats and the positions on issues that Democrats hold are compatible with mine and compatible with the working families middle class and people are striving to get there across the state. So I’m going to continue to do that.”
GOP challenger accuses Foxx of being 'crime lover’: In his first TV ad of the campaign Republican candidate for Cook County State’s Attorney Pat O’Brien calls Democratic first-term incumbent Kim Foxx a “crime lover,” and points to the 25,000 people who saw their felony cases – including murder and sex crimes - dropped by Cook County prosecutors since she took office. A Tribune investigation published in August examined the statistics. In the 30-second spot, which you can watch here, a narrator calls Foxx a “crime lover” and tells voters to “save Chicago, Fire Kim Foxx.”
Foxx has declined to debate O’Brien, with her spokeswoman accusing him of “Trump-like name calling and fear mongering.”
The Cook County Health Board of Directors has chosen Israel Rocha Jr., CEO of Elmhurst and Queens hospitals at the New York City Health + Hospitals system — hard hit at the height of the pandemic — to lead the county’s public health system, the Tribune’s Alice Yin writes today.
Yin writes: “Rocha’s experience, which includes guiding the once-overflowing Elmhurst Hospital as it bore the brunt of the coronavirus' early toll on New York, aligns with the needs of Cook County’s health system that overwhelmingly serves the poor and also was inundated with COVID-19 patients earlier this year, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said.”
Rocha’s appointment comes as Cook County Health, which continues to provide most of the county’s uncompensated charity care, is also struggling financially. Read the full story here.
900 children in suburban Cook County public housing to get free laptops as remote learning continues to present digital barriers: Alice Yin’s on that story too.
More news: Marijuana ads are here and largely unregulated, as the industry acts to set own guidelines: The Tribune’s Robert McCoppin has the details here.
From the Tribune’s John Byrne and Gregory Pratt: “Mayor Lori Lightfoot pledged Wednesday to continue pushing for City Hall control of zoning rules for some polluting industries, after aldermen who criticized it as a power grab stalled the plan this week.
"The council on Wednesday did not consider a proposal by Lightfoot to require city planned development review for large industrial developments, including certain industrial composting, manufacturing and waste-related businesses that residents in many cases don’t want near their homes.
“The ordinance failed to get enough votes to get out of the Zoning Committee this week amid criticism from aldermen who said the mayor was trying to wrest control of zoning authority that’s better handled by them.” Read the rest of the story here.
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