Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana have campaigned for months for their world-famous running mates, but the lesser-known vice-presidential candidates will be effectively introduced to voters Tuesday at a debate that colleagues predicted will put substance before mudslinging.
“It might be refreshing and positive for the American public to see two committed public servants disagree without being disagreeable,” said Curt Smith, who advised Pence, a Republican, in debate prep for his congressional and gubernatorial campaigns.
“I think you will find a very civil debate,” said Viola Baskerville, who was secretary of administration under Kaine, a Democrat, during his time as Virginia governor.
Pence and Kaine — running mates to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, respectively — will meet for their only faceoff of the election season. Their 90-minute debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, will be moderated by Elaine Quijano, a CBSN anchor and CBS News correspondent.
Unlike the presidential matchup at Hofstra University, the topics for Tuesday night have not been released beforehand.
“These two people are running for the second-highest office in the land,” said St. Louis University School of Law professor Joel Goldstein, an expert on the vice presidency. “They’ll discuss the presidential candidates and the issues but also introduce themselves to an extent to the American people.”
Clinton is well-known as a former first lady, U.S. senator to New York and secretary of state, and Trump rivals her fame as a wealthy real estate developer and former reality TV star. But Kaine and Pence aren’t household names yet.
An AP-GfK poll released last Saturday found 47 percent of respondents said they didn’t know enough about Pence to discuss his favorability and 54 percent said the same about Kaine.
Both have acknowledged their lower profiles with self-deprecating humor. In June, Pence called himself a “B-list Republican celebrity,” and Kaine told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “I am boring.”
Smith, president of the socially conservative Indiana Family Institute, said of Pence, a colleague for years: “His best asset is good-natured personality and his winsome way with words.”
Smith said he expects the governor will share the story of Indiana’s economic revival as an indicator of what he can do for the country.
Baskerville, who has known Kaine for 22 years and served with him in the Richmond, Virginia, City Council, similarly touted the senator’s likeability.
“He will be very polite. He will allow Governor Pence to respond and won’t talk over him,” Baskerville said. “He’s not confrontational, but no one should underestimate his ability to handle a question and score on the facts.”
One of Kaine’s strongest issues would be police-community relations — “police shootings of individuals and police dying in performing their duties,” she said.