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During most campaigns, the job of the vice-presidential candidates focuses on boosting the person heading the ticket. Proving their suitability for the top job is secondary.

But this year is different. The president is 74 and spent much of the past week in the hospital, and his Democratic rival is 77. So it was vital for their running mates, Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris, to show in Wednesday night’s debate that they would be capable of stepping up if necessary.

We speak to Alexander Burns, a Times national political correspondent, about the candidates’ strategies and whether anything new emerged four weeks before the election.


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On today’s episode

  • Alexander Burns, a national political correspondent for The New York Times.

ImageSenator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence in the vice presidential debate, moderated by Susan Page of USA Today, at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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Alexander Burns contributed reporting.

“The Daily” is made by Theo Balcomb, Andy Mills, Lisa Tobin, Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Annie Brown, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Larissa Anderson, Wendy Dorr, Chris Wood, Jessica Cheung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Leigh Young, Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc Georges, Luke Vander Ploeg, Kelly Prime, Julia Longoria, Sindhu Gnanasambandan, M.J. Davis Lin, Austin Mitchell, Neena Pathak, Dan Powell, Dave Shaw, Sydney Harper, Daniel Guillemette, Hans Buetow, Robert Jimison, Mike Benoist, Bianca Giaever, Liz O. Baylen, Asthaa Chaturvedi and Rachelle Bonja. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Mikayla Bouchard, Lauren Jackson, Julia Simon, Mahima Chablani, Nora Keller, Sofia Milan and Desiree Ibekwe.