AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- With less than four weeks until election day, the first and only vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris is Wednesday night.

History will be made tonight when Democratic Senator Kamala Harris takes the vice presidential debate stage as the first woman of Black and Indian descent on a presidential ticket. She faces current Republican Vice President Mike Pence, who is campaigning for a second term.

UMass Amherst political science professor Paul Musgrave said debate-watchers should be looking for one distinct thing.

“Well, I think the most important thing to be looking for, which of these vice presidential candidates you can envision as being president,” Musgrave noted.

Taking over as commander-in-chief is top of mind with President Donald Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis last week and former vice president Joe Biden’s age and mental agility coming into question.

“Even though they’re running as vice president to try to help their president, to try to carry their message, they also need to show that they’re capable of stepping in right from day one,” Musgrave noted.

Musgrave told Western Mass News that he believes both candidates in the vice-presidential debate will talk more about issues without the personal attacks seen in the first presidential debate last week.

“I do think this will probably be more substantive than the first presidential debate. I think that’s partly because that’s more Mike Pence’s style and I also think that’s because Kamala Harris is going to want to try to make the closing argument for the Biden campaign,” Musgrave said.

What does each candidate have to do to win the debate?

“I think Kamala, of the four people running for president or vice president, is the only person who needs to really define her national brand. I think she’s going to do that as somebody who is tough, confident, and also a loyal member of a potential Biden administration is ready to take over if that need should arise…I think Mike Pence, more than anyone else, is playing for an audience of one. I think that Mike Pence has figured out, since he joined the ticket, that his strongest relationship and his best chance of advancement in politics is showing Donald Trump he is a loyal member of the Trump team,” Musgrave explained.

The vice-presidential debate stage will look a little different due to coronavirus precautions. Both candidates will be protected by plexiglass.

The debate starts at 9 p.m. on the networks of Western Mass News.

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