Vice President Mike Pence arrives in Utah for debate, says election stakes ‘have never been higher’

(Jacquelyn Martin | AP photo) Vice President Mike Pence speaks to members of the new media at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, as he leaves Washington for Utah ahead of the vice presidential debate schedule for Oct. 7. At left is Karen Pence.

Just before Vice President Mike Pence flew to Salt Lake City on Monday, he talked up the debate Wednesday with Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris at the University of Utah.

“The stakes in this election have never been higher, the choice has never been clearer, and I look forward to the opportunity to take our case to the American people for four more years for President Donald Trump in the White House,” he told reporters at Andrews Air Force Base.

Pence arrived at Salt Lake City International Airport about 6:30 Monday evening, and was greeted by Gov. Gary Herbert and GOP 4th Congressional District candidate Burgess Owens — with everyone wearing face masks. Pence made no public comments there. Harris arrived in Utah on Friday, five days ahead of the Wednesday event at the U.'s Kingsbury Hall, to prepare for the debate.

Pence said earlier that because Trump, who has the coronavirus, has improved enough to leave Walter Reed Medical Center and return to the White House, both of them determined it was fine for Pence to leave the capital.

So, the vice president said, Trump “told me to head to Utah, and we’re looking very much forward to the vice presidential debate.”

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Air Force Two, carrying Vice President Mike Pence, arrives at Salt Lake International Airport Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, ahead of the Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah.

Pence also thanked Americans for their many expressions of concern for the health of the president.

“We really believe it is emblematic of the love and the care and the compassion the American people have shown all of those that have been impacted by the coronavirus from the very beginning of this pandemic,” Pence said.

Harris started her visit on Saturday morning with a 20-minute walk around This Is the Place Heritage Park at the mouth of Emigration Canyon. The iconic monument honors the Latter-day Saint pioneers who came into the valley in 1847.

“When you think about the spirit of America, including the pioneers here, that is so much of the fabric of this nation. They were essentially immigrants. They were fleeing persecution. They were fighting for religious freedom,” she said at the monument.

The stop there was seen as part of a continued effort to connect the candidate and Democratic nominee Joe Biden to Latter-day Saint voters. Their campaign has noted it is endorsed by several prominent members of the faith, including former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin and former GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Harris also wrote an op-ed that appeared Monday in the church-owned Deseret News. In it, she said she and Biden believe in showing their faith by action in service to all. “It’s exactly what I see in members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I felt that spirit this week, when I visited the This Is The Place Monument and the Salt Lake Temple site,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, Politico is reporting that the two vice presidential candidates apparently will view each other on Wednesday through Plexiglas, which is being added as an additional protection for them against the spread of COVID-19.

Plexiglas is also expected to separate the candidates from moderator Susan Page.

Politico said the Pence and Harris teams have been negotiating the terms of the debate in recent days. That includes separating the candidates 13 feet apart.