Monday 24 October 2016

Vice-presidential candidates ready for big moment in debate spotlight

Alan Suderman

Published 03/10/2016 | 02:30

Hillary Clinton stands with Zianna Oliphant (9) while speaking during a Sunday service at Little Rock AMC Zion Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo: Getty Images
Hillary Clinton stands with Zianna Oliphant (9) while speaking during a Sunday service at Little Rock AMC Zion Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo: Getty Images

With the first presidential debate complete and its spin cycle nearly over, the two understudies are getting ready to take the main stage.

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The vice-presidential debate tomorrow will be the only time Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine will have the world's political attention all to themselves, away from their much more well-known running mates.

The stakes will be lower than the three presidential debates, but will give each largely undefined candidate a chance to make a mark on a national audience.

Running mates rarely overshadow the top of the ticket, although Sarah Palin caused a sensation as Republican John McCain's pick in 2008. But voters always have a reason to size up the people who would be next in line for the presidency.

Pence, Trump's running mate, is taking a decidedly un-Trump like approach to the vice-presidential debate. He's preparing for it.

The Indiana governor and former 12-year congressman held mock debate sessions with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as a stand-in, studying up on issues likely to be raised and making sure he avoids the criticisms of being unprepared that dogged Trump after his uneven performance a week ago. "We're going to do our level best to be ready," Pence said last week.

Clinton's running mate, a former Virginia governor and current US senator, spent several days preparing for the debate in Raleigh, North Carolina, and in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. The debate will take place at Longwood University, about an hour west of Richmond.

Helping Kaine is Washington DC, lawyer Robert Barnett, a veteran of prepping Democrats for debates. Kaine said he's been "thinking hard" about what Pence's record says "about the guy who chose him, because it really is more about Donald Trump than it is about Governor Pence."

Pence and Kaine are practised public speakers with lengthy political careers who should bring a high level of polish to the undercard debate. Pence is a former talk radio host; Kaine a former Harvard-trained trial lawyer.

But both have played dramatically different roles since they were picked to be the No 2s.

Pence has frequently been on the hot seat defending, deflecting and explaining some of his unconventional running mate's more inflammatory comments. It's made for some awkward moments, with Pence defending Trump's praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump's apparent support for a policy of stop-and-frisk by police, and Trump's feud with a Muslim-American family whose son, a US Army captain, was killed while serving in Iraq in 2004.

Kaine, by contrast, is much more in lockstep with Clinton and has rarely faced tough questions on a tightly managed campaign that's so far been heavy with private glitzy fundraisers and lighter moments on TV. He's no fire-eater. He's called himself "boring", a quality Clinton said she loves about him.

Irish Independent

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