- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 2, 2016

Donald Trump’s stumble in the first presidential debate and the rough week that followed upped the pressure on his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, to regain the campaign’s footing with a strong performance in Tuesday’s debate with Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine.

The two men have a lot in common and lots of political experience, including stints on Capitol Hill and in governor’s mansions. Both also were relatively unknown before being tapped for the No. 2 spot by their parties’ famous, albeit polarizing, nominees.

“Both of them are going to have to defend the top of the ticket. But after Donald Trump’s performance last week, Kaine will probably walk in thinking he’s got the advantage,” said Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf.

Strategists from both parties have applauded the way Mr. Pence and Mr. Kaine have handled themselves on the campaign trail so far, saying they’ve covered up some of their boss’ blemishes.

They’ve even left some political insiders wishing the veeps were atop the ticket.

“Governor Pence has brought a depth of experience and a strong conservative record to the ticket, helping to unite conservatives and party leaders around Trump-Pence,” said Phil Cox, a GOP consultant. “He’s proven to be a strong, effective defender of Donald Trump and an important character witness for key segments of our party’s coalition.”


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On the debate stage in Farmville, Virginia, Mr. Kaine likely will have to answer questions about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s secret email setup as secretary of state, conflicts of interest from corporate and foreign donors to the Clinton Foundation and maybe her role covering up former President Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs.

Still, Mr. Kaine enjoys an advantage from the past week’s news coverage that focused on Mr. Trump’s debate fumbles and his repeated defenses of calling 1996 Miss Universe Alicia Machado “Miss Piggy” when she gained weight after winning the Trump-owned pageant that year.

Mr. Kaine, 58, a former Virginia governor, has a homespun style, boasts a relatively modestly lifestyle and often harkens to his working-class upbringing in a Catholic family in Kansas City, Missouri.

“My folks weren’t much into politics. My dad ran a union ironworking shop and my mom was his best salesman,” he said in his acceptance speech the Democratic National Convention. “My parents, Al and Kathy, here tonight and going strong — they taught me about hard work, and about kindness, and, most especially, faith.”

Mr. Pence, 57, describes himself as a “Christian, a conservative and a Republican — in that order.”

Born into an Irish Catholic family, Mr. Pence later became a member of an Evangelical Christian church, referring to himself as “born-again, evangelical Catholic.”

A polished public speaker, Mr. Pence is a former member of the House GOP leadership team and a former talk-radio host. But he’ll be put the test because of the way the conversation has shifted since the Clinton campaign marched out Ms. Machado as part of its push to brand Mr. Trump as a sexist and anti-woman.

Mr. Trump hit back, bringing up the beauty queen’s sex romp on a Mexican reality TV show, and teasing the idea that he is going to put more emphasis on Mr. Clinton’s extramarital affairs.

As a result, the GOP establishment is hopeful that Mr. Pence can put an end to the tabloid-like atmosphere of the past few days and get the campaign back on track by refocusing the conversation on Mrs. Clinton and making the case that the nation can’t afford another four years like the last eight.

“I think Mike Pence has to do what he does best, which is to show his substance, depth, his solid balance, his good judgment, his even temper, and his empathy — all of which have been hallmarks of his career and I think will turn up in the debate,” said Fred Malek, a veteran GOP consultant. “Many people I talked to wish the tickets were reversed — in which case you could be assured of a reasonably happy ending.”

There was a generational chasm in last two vice presidential debates, with Joe Biden, 73, facing off against then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, 52, in 2008 and House Speaker Paul Ryan, 46, in 2012.

Mr. Kaine and Mr. Pence were born a little over a year apart, and each of them have at least 15 years of public service under their belts.

With health questions swirling around Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump having recently celebrated his 70th birthday, there has been more attention paid to the idea that Mr. Kaine or Mr. Pence could end up as commander in chief.

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