In reporting the American presidential election, the currently fashionable media consensus is the claim that, with the 74-year-old incumbent President of the United States infected with coronavirus and his opponent, who will be 78 by inauguration day, showing signs of uncertainty concerning whether he has had his lunch, the encounter between the vice-presidential candidates this evening assumes an unprecedented significance.

The old maxim that a vice-president is only a heartbeat away from the Oval Office is being invoked in aid of this claim. One can see the logic of the assertion, but it ignores the reality that, on the Democratic side of the contest, represented by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, it is irrelevant. In the event of a victory for the Democrats, Kamala Harris would be president from day one in a political partnership that “sleepy Joe” himself, in his stumble-mumble utterances, has referred to as the “Harris-Biden ticket”.