5 Storylines to Watch During the VP Debate
DIGITAL COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7PM AND ENDS AT 11:30PM
(ABC News) – Today marks a moment in the presidential campaign that is not squarely focused on the presidential hopefuls, but rather, on their running mates.
Sen. Tim Kaine and Gov. Mike Pence are facing off at the vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia tonight and there are several important story lines to keep in mind.
What Happens When Both Candidates Prepare
While there was much speculation about how much and how little Clinton and Trump were doing to prepare for the first presidential debate at Hofstra University last week, both Kaine and Pence have been actively prepping for their time in the limelight.
Pence has been using Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as his Kaine stand-in during mock debates and D.C. power lawyer Bob Barnett, who played Bernie Sanders in Clinton’s mock debates, has been playing Pence during Kaine’s mock debates.
Kaine has also been reading briefing materials during campaign air travel and taking time off the trail to dedicate to debate preparations.
Defending the Top of the Ticket
Even though both Kaine and Pence have their own political histories and records that they could defend, the nature of the presidential race means that they will likely spend much of their time on stage tonight defending the tops of their tickets.
Both vice presidential candidates have spent time with their running mates on the trail, and while neither Clinton nor Trump will be in Virginia tomorrow, their presence — and policies — will certainly be felt on the debate stage at Longwood University.
Kaine Hoping for Home State Advantage
Virginia is leaning Democratic in the current standings, according to ABC News’s electoral map, but Kaine is undoubtedly banking on his decades-long history in the state to help him on stage tonight.
Before being picked as Clinton’s running mate, Kaine, who is a sitting Senator for the state, served as the Governor of Virginia, the Lt. Gov. of Virginia and the Mayor of it’s capitol city, Richmond.
This may be Kaine’s first time in a spotlight this big, but his aides stress that he was a longtime lawyer.. a litigator. And he’s been preparing for this debate as if he was preparing to make the case in court, laying out his arguments one at a time.
Playing Off the Polls
The latest national poll was released by CBS on Monday, and has Clinton with 45 percent to Trump’s 41 percent, technically within the margin of error.
Clinton’s slight lead comes after the same poll had her and Trump tied at 42 percent in mid-September.
With 35 days left until the election, the influence of polls is being felt even more dramatically than in the past months.
Comparisons to the Past VP Debates
The dynamics of every presidential race differ by year, and while Trump and Clinton at the top of the tickets bring star power to their debates, it was actually the VP debate that got more attention in the 2008 race.
The prime-time showdown between Sarah Palin when she was Sen. John McCain’s running mate and Joe Biden when he was first running with then-Sen. Barack Obama was the most-watched debate of that election cycle with 69.9 million viewers, according to the Nielsen television ratings.
The Kaine-Pence face-off is not expected to bring in those kinds of numbers, but it will be interesting to see how they fare given that the first presidential debate of this season reached historic viewership numbers.
Watch FULL LIVE COVERAGE of the second presidential debate, co-moderated by ABC News’ Martha Raddatz, at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 9. Coverage and analysis of the debate will begin on ABCNews.com/Live at 7 p.m. ET.