You’ve been waiting for months, and it’s finally here: The vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Tim Kaine will take place at 9 pm Eastern Tuesday and is scheduled to last for 90 minutes.
Wait, you mean to tell me you haven’t been anxiously awaiting this sure-to-be epic event? Huh, that’s odd. Anyway, if you do decide you want to tune in, it will take place at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.
Now, you probably won’t have a hard time tracking down the debate on television, since many major networks and news channels — CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC — will air the debate live.
But if you'd prefer to watch this scintillating showdown on an online stream, you're in luck — it's embedded above, courtesy of NBC News.
What to expect at the vice presidential debate
If the stakes were very high at the first presidential debate … well, to be honest, they are way less high here. Most vice presidential nominees have little impact on the outcome of presidential elections, with attention understandably being focused on the top of the ticket.
Indeed, since Pence and Kaine were selected as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s running mates, both have often seemed to vanish from headlines for weeks at a time. They are far less famous than Trump and Clinton, and both remain relatively little-known among the electorate. So barring some truly earth-shaking gaffe, this debate is highly unlikely to affect the presidential polls in any significant way.
But there’s more to life than the horse race. Both Kaine and Pence have the potential to unexpectedly become the most powerful person on the planet — perhaps moreso than usual, given that both presidential candidates are on the older side — so it’s worth getting a sense of who they are and how they handle the tense, high-pressure setting of a nationally televised debate.
If you’re expecting that this debate will be a policy-heavy breather from endless talk of Trump’s temperament and Clinton’s emails, though, think again. It is Trump and Clinton who actually matter much to voters, and neither veep nominee is likely to forget this. The job is frequently referred to as that of an "attack dog" for a reason. Pence may frequently seem to be debating an absent Clinton, while Kaine trains his fire on the looming, invisible specter of Trump.
Kaine’s mocking impression of Trump at the Democratic convention — in which he repeatedly croaked out the words "Buh-lieve me!" — was well-received. The debate stage may not be the best venue for such a performance, but expect him to continue his effort to try to position Democrats, not Republicans, as the party of moral values.
He’ll probably also have to give some explanation about why he accepted over $160,000 worth of gifts while serving as governor of Virginia — gifts that were completely legal, but open him up to criticism for his willingness to accept such treats from wealthy donors and companies. The RNC has also telegraphed that Pence may attack Kaine for defending accused murderers during his attorney career.
Meanwhile, Pence will try to make more progress on his Sisyphean task of normalizing Trump — which, given the GOP nominee’s bizarre behavior of late, may be difficult. Indeed, Pence has frequently seemed to be running an entirely separate campaign from Trump, focusing on traditional conservative issues instead of Trump’s own obsessions and with more of an optimistic tone (paired with, of course, constant attacks on Hillary Clinton).
But Pence has his own controversies that he’ll likely be asked about. He signed an extremely strong and actually downright strange anti-abortion law that, as Vox's Emily Crockett writes, "would have basically forced women to seek funerary services for a fetus." (The law was blocked by a federal judge.) And as late as 2000, while he was running for Congress, Pence wrote that "smoking doesn’t kill."
Overall, Pence versus Kaine probably won’t move the polling needle in any significant way (though anything’s possible!). But you should watch the debate thinking that you could be watching a future president — because you very well might be.
How to watch:
When: 9 pm Eastern
Where: Longwood University, Farmville, Virginia
TV: CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, PBS, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC
Online: It's at the top of this page!