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Who is Susan Page? Meet the moderator for the vice presidential debate

Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief for USA Today, appears on "Meet the Press" in 2019.
Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief for USA Today, appears on “Meet the Press” in 2019.
(William B. Plowman / NBC)

Susan Page, the longtime Washington bureau chief for USA Today, will be in charge of keeping the candidates in line at the vice presidential debate Wednesday in Salt Lake City, where Vice President Mike Pence will face off against Sen. Kamala Harris of California.

The sole showdown between running mates is typically the secondary act in the four events sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates in an election year. But the age of Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who will be 78 on inauguration day in 2021, and the health of 74-year-old Republican incumbent President Trump, released from the hospital Monday after contracting the coronavirus, has heightened the significance of the No. 2 spot on the ticket in the 2020 campaign.

Page, 69, is a veteran White House reporter, who has covered six administrations and 11 national campaigns. She is the first print reporter to handle a televised presidential or vice presidential debate since 1976, when James Hoge, then-editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, moderated the matchup of VP contenders Walter Mondale and Robert Dole.

Here is what you need to know about Page.

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Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence
Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) speaks at Shaw University during a campaign visit in Raleigh, N.C., on Sept. 28. Right, Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a Faith and Freedom Coalition policy conference on Sept. 30 in Atlanta.
(Gerry Broome; Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

Journalism has been a family affair. Page, a native of Kansas, is married to Carl Leubsdorf, a columnist and former Washington bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News. One of their two sons, Ben, was a reporter at the Washington bureau of the Wall Street Journal and is now a librarian at the Congressional Research Service.

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She took heat over a party she threw for a Trump administration official in 2018. After Page’s debate assignment was announced, a House committee report surfaced that said she held a celebration at her home two years ago for Seema Verma, head of Medicare and Medicaid Services. While such social occasions are part of the Washington beat, Page came under criticism when it was revealed the cost for the PR consultant that arranged the event was paid for by taxpayers. A representative for USA Today said Page was unaware of the charge and had covered the $4,000 for catering and other costs for the party out of her own pocket.

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She is a former president of the Gridiron Club. Page has long been involved in the exclusive 135-year-old Washington club where top journalists write and perform a musical review that spoofs the politicians they cover. (The event was canceled this year for the first time since World War II due to the pandemic.) Former Gridiron Club historian Cheryl Arvidson noted that Page has capably sung and danced in the shows. Arvidson chuckled when asked about Page’s vocal range. “What they look for is someone who can carry a tune and has requisite timing,” she said. “If you can do both of those things, you’re a star.”

Page has never met a Washington public affairs program she didn’t like. While Page does not have a regular TV job, she is often booked as a panelist on the Beltway-based roundtable shows such as NBC’s “Meet the Press.” In 2020, she has appeared seven times on PBS’ “Washington Week,” twice on “Fox News Sunday” and twice on “Face the Nation.”

She recently became a bestselling author. After being a Washington fixture for decades, Page is putting her institutional knowledge of the town to use as a biographer. “The Matriarch,” her 2019 biography of former First Lady Barbara Bush, was a well reviewed bestseller. Her next book, set for publication in spring 2021, looks at the life and career of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

She almost chose music over journalism. Page started playing the oboe in the third grade, and considered a career as a musician. “I was very serious about becoming a professional oboist,” she told Twitter in an interview. “And you would go to very different schools for those two careers, so this was something I really anguished over. I chose journalism, and since I made that decision in high school I’ve never actually wanted to do anything else.”


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