VP Showdown–Is Tonight’s Debate the Most Important in History?

Even though it might not be as theatrical as the presidential debate, political analysts say it would make up for that in substance. Both these men are no strangers to the political limelight and they know their issues. But is it a good thing they are trained politicians?

By Matthew Carey

The first and only debate between the vice presidential candidates — Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine — may not generate the record viewership or fireworks of last week’s presidential face-off. But what Tuesday night’s VP debate lacks in theatrics, it could make up for in substance, political analysts say.

“It will actually be the kind of debate that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have my kids watch,” said John J. Pitney Jr., professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College. “You’ve got two well-qualified individuals talking about honest differences on the issues. What a concept.”

Both men boast extensive experience in government, on the state level and in Congress. Pence is governor of Indiana and Kaine is the former governor of Virginia. Pence served more than 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, holding a key Republican leadership position. Meanwhile, Kaine represents Virginia in the U.S. Senate, where he serves on two prominent committees — Foreign Relations and Armed Services.

As infidelity allegations, unpaid taxes, name calling, email problems and health woes dominate headlines about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Pitney said the two VP candidates’ experience is one of the bright spots in the 2016 presidential race.

“The quality of the vice presidential candidates is the sole reassuring element of this entire election,” Pitney said.

Kaine and Pence share something else in common besides lengthy political resumes.

“These two individuals have similar upbringings. They were both born Irish Catholics,” said Renee Van Vechten, associate professor of political science at the University of Redlands.

As a young man, Kaine served as a Catholic missionary in Honduras, and he speaks fluent Spanish. Pence once worked as a Catholic youth minister. He is a born-again Christian and now attends an evangelical church in Indianapolis.

But the debate will most likely highlight their differences, not their similarities.

“You have Pence on the one hand who is extremely conservative. He calls himself a Christian first, then a conservative, then a Republican,” Van Vechten said. “Pence is much more ideologically driven in that he’s known for his strict anti-abortion views.”

Last year Pence signed into law a bill he said was designed to protect religious freedom, but critics maintained it would allow businesses to refuse services to gay couples. After an outcry from Tim Cook, the openly-gay CEO of Apple, the NCAA and celebrities including “Star Trek” alum George Takei, Pence backtracked.

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