GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- In a KREX 5/Fox 4 exclusive, reporter and anchor Adrian Thomas sat down via Zoom with republican incumbent, Senator Cory Gardner, and former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, to get democrat and republican perspective on the first presidential debate.

Salazar, a long time Colorado democrat who served as a U.S. senator and in the Obama administration heading the Department of the Interior, says President Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic will be a big topic in Tuesday night’s debate. Salazar has been campaigning for Biden across Colorado in virtual events, as well as heading efforts for Biden’s campaign to connect with Latino voters.

“COVID-19 has really taken the wind out of the world and the United States,” Salazar said. “We are really in dire straits as a nation and the person who owns that is Donald Trump.”

On the other side of the aisle, Senator Cory Gardner says economic recovery from COVID-19 will be an important topic to look out for at the debates, but says voters should not support Biden’s economic policies.

“You have a vision by Joe Biden who wants more government taxes, more government regulations,” Senator Gardner said “He wants to overturn the great work that we’ve done to lead to economic success in this country.”

Another major topic that will likely be brought up in the debate, or the debates to come, is the vacancy on the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Senate republicans are expected to hold a confirmation hearing for President Trump’s appointment to fill Ginsberg’s seat, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. It’s expected that hearing will begin prior to Election Day.

“The election ought to be held and if Donald Trump is the winner, then move forward with the confirmation process and let it play out as it will,” Salazar said. “If on the other hand Joe Biden is the winner, which we expect will happen, then Joe Biden should get to nominate the person to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg.”

In 2016 President Barack Obama appointed Merrick Garland to fill a Supreme Court vacancy after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, and his confirmation hearing was stalled by a republican majority in the U.S. Senate. While Gardner and Senate republicans are now taking a complete opposite stance as they did in 2016, Gardner says this situation is different, and warrants swift action in confirming Trump’s Supreme Court appointment.

“If you look at 2016, you had a lame duck president (Obama) of a different party than the Senate,” Gardner said. “That hadn’t happened with a confirmation process going back to the late 1800s. So we’re following precedent, using our advise and consent constitutional obligation to put a Supreme Court justice who is well qualified onto the court.”

Gardner also added he was scheduled to meet Amy Coney Barrett Tuesday afternoon in Washington as she begins the confirmation hearing process. Gardner said she’s “an incredibly talented jurist and one of the top legal minds,” who won’t “let her policy preferences interfere with the law.”

Salazar, the Biden campaign, and Gardner’s opponent John Hickenlooper have all public said they fear an appointment of Barrett could mean the end of the Affordable Care Act, which could compromise healthcare for millions of Americans.

Catch the first presidential debate tonight at 7 p.m. MTD on KREX 5 and Fox 4.