Susan Page, USA TODAY's Washington Bureau chief, will moderate the only face-off between the 2020 vice presidential candidates: incumbent veep Mike Pence and Joe Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris.
Salt Lake City's showdown Wednesday (9 EDT/6 PDT), like the presidential debates, is scheduled for 90 minutes with no commercial breaks.
Page, 69, became a White House correspondent for USA TODAY in 1995 and has interviewed nine presidents, six of them while they were in office. She is the first print reporter selected by the Commission on Presidential Debates as a solo moderator.
Page's turn as moderator follows last week's controversial – and largely panned – presidential debate, led by "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace.
She says that debate inspired her to keep prepping. "It didn’t change anything, but it kind of reinforced the idea that this is an event for which you have to be very, very prepared."
And yes, she's been working on a plan for potential interruptions. "I’ve tried to really think through what would be an approach that would work to keep the debate on track," she says. May we all breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Here are five things to know about Page:
The prosecutor vs. the 'king of sound bites': Why the Harris-Pence debate is no ordinary VP faceoff
Her journalism career: Page began her career as a beat reporter for Long Island, New York, daily newspaper Newsday, reporting on Smithtown. Following a promotion, she turned her focus to Islip. A short period working in Albany led to a longer stint in Newsday's Washington Bureau, where she covered the 1980 presidential race when Ronald Reagan squashed Jimmy Carter's hopes of a second term. She says filling in as a guest host for NPR's former call-in program, "The Diane Rehm Show," provided skills that have made her more confident about Wednesday's debate.
Debate topics: Page says the debate will cover nine issues, each to be discussed for approximately 10 minutes. She decides the subjects to cover and questions to ask, which she describes as an "awesome responsibility."
"If you like it, that’ll be great. But if you don’t like it, I’ll be the person to blame," she says.
Page sees the debate as "a chance for American voters to take a look at these two candidates and see both what they think of them personally and what they think about their policy ideas. That is my North Star in thinking about this."
By the book: In April 2019, Page released her first book, "The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty." She currently owes her publisher one last chapter for her second, "Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power," to be released in April. Page says once the debate is over, she'll turn her focus to finishing that final chapter, which is about this eventful year.
Page's favorite interview: Despite interviewing those nine commanders in chief, it's the late physicist Stephen Hawking who earned the title of her favorite. She spoke with Hawking in 2000, when he was in the nation's capital to deliver a lecture at the White House. Despite his severe physical limitations stemming from Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), Page describes Hawking as "incredibly full of life and engaging and fun, in a way that I could not even convey to you."
To oboe or not to oboe? That was the question: Page's passion for playing the oboe created quite the dilemma when deciding on her career: would it be music or journalism? The latter eventually won out, and for Page, it's "the best."
"I was born and raised in Wichita," she says. "I had never spent a night outside Kansas until I started my freshman year of college (at Northwestern University) in Chicago. And the idea that now I’ve interviewed nine presidents of the United States, it’s only in journalism. It's only as a journalist that that is conceivable."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Vice presidential debate: Susan Page will moderate Harris, Pence