Tonight, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and Indiana Governor Mike Pence will square off in one of the least exciting events of the presidential election cycle—the sole vice presidential debate. With the notable exception of Senator Lloyd Bentsen’s famous retort to future Vice President and then-Senator Dan Quayle, “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy,” the vice presidential debate usually garners little attention compared to the presidential debates. Still, the vice presidential debate is one of the few moments in the campaign where focus is truly on the vice presidential candidates. Both Kaine and Pence are accomplished figures with mild temperaments, yet have wildly different views on America.
Tim Kaine is the junior Senator from Virginia, elected in 2012. Before his election to the Senate, Kaine served as Governor of Virginia, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, and Mayor of Richmond. Kaine was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, raised in the Kansas City area, and attended the University of Missouri. After college, Kaine attended Harvard Law School and worked with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras. Concerning his political views, Kaine falls within the norm of the Democratic party, but has shown willingness to compromise and centrist pragmatism. Kaine’s likability with both Senators across the aisle and constituents in Virginia seems to be the primary reason why he was selected to join Secretary Clinton on the Democratic ticket. She seems to think that as a former Governor and Mayor, Kaine has the executive experience necessary to be a successful governing partner as Vice President.
Mike Pence is the 50th Governor of Indiana, elected in 2012. Before this, Pence had a long career in the House of Representatives, representing Indiana from 2001 to 2013. Pence was born in Columbus, Indiana and graduated from Hanover College in 1981. After college, Pence attended the Indiana University School of Law and began work as an attorney after graduation. With respect to his political views, Pence falls squarely in line with the wave of Tea Party conservatism that arose in backlash to the Obama administration. Pence self-describes as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” These conservative Christian credentials are very important to the Republican base, evident by Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s substantial resistance to Donald Trump in the Republican primaries. Pence was picked by the Trump campaign, over other Governors like Chris Christie, because of the conservative evangelical dimension to his politics and his relatively calm demeanor. Given the coalescing of support by rank and file Republicans around Donald Trump in the past few months, it seems like Pence was a smart choice for the Trump campaign.
With respect to the debate itself, there will most likely be little fanfare. Both candidates will defend their running mates’ visions for America and try to persuade the American people of their readiness to step into the most powerful job in the world if necessary. Vice presidential candidates cannot do much to help or hurt a campaign, but listening to someone other than the presidential candidate themselves advocate their vision on the world stage is worth watching.