FARMVILLE, VA – In the final hours before the first and only vice presidential debate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence arrived at Longwood University surrounded by an entourage of security and staff as he entered the debate hall for a final walk-through.
For 90 minutes Tuesday night, the national spotlight will be on Pence and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) who are expected to debate a wide range of issues. But as much as the debate stage will dominate the national headlines for the next 24 hours, the real focus will still be the two candidates on top of the ticket – Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Pence signaled his approach at a rally Monday evening in Ashland, Virginia.
“I mean Hillary Clinton’s record on foreign affairs alone could take up the whole 90 minutes,” he said.
The debate comes at a crucial point for Pence, needing to not only defend Trump but define himself.
Both vice presidential candidates remain largely unknown to voters nationwide.
“He just seems like Trump,” Susan Martin said, a Virginia voter. “A down-to-earth kind of guy.”
A CBS News Poll out Tuesday showed 57 percent of registered voters didn’t have any opinion of Pence, 67 percent the same for Kaine.
“I have to say I don’t know myself,” Austin Karvelis said, a Virginia voter who attended Pence’s Monday rally. “That’s why we’re here, so between tonight and tomorrow night I’ll get to know him better.”
Pence has been preparing for weeks for the debate, including mock debate sessions with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as a stand-in for Kaine.
“I think the biggest challenge for these candidates is to try and not lose a couple of news cycles by doing something that’s silly,” John Dickerson said, host of Face the Nation. “The Trump campaign is telegraphing that Mike Pence is gonna come out and be feisty.
“So the question then is what is a feisty Mike Pence look like and can you carry it off in a debate?” Dickerson said. “It’s hard in the debate to be tough and aggressive especially if it’s not in your nature.”