Pence had no problem counter-punching in a civil and substantive way four years ago against Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate. But he was doing so against a fellow late-50s male known more for his congeniality on Capitol Hill than his sharp-tongued barbs. Some political observers labeled the tete-a-tete milquetoast vs. mayonnaise, but it was a traditional verbal back-and-forth over policy differences, and most cited Pence as the victor.

Taking the fight to Harris will be a far more delicate balancing act. As the first woman of color on a presidential ticket and after months of violent racial unrest across the country, Pence must be careful not to lecture about race relations or try to drive home the president’s forceful law-and-order campaign message to a prosecutor who has faced criticism herself for taking the law too far and locking up too many people for lesser crimes.

Before Trump’s positive COVID test, Harris was reportedly planning to go on the offensive, blaming the administration once again for the more than 210,000 U.S. coronavirus deaths, trying to dismantle Obamacare and for pushing forward on a Supreme Court nominee after holding up President Obama’s court choice during the last presidential election year. With Trump still sick, (though he professes to feeling better than he has in 20 years), Harris is said to be planning to tone down her zingers while still holding Pence responsible for Trump’s record.