What to Watch For in the Vice-Presidential Debate

Screen Shot 2016-10-04 at 10.42.55 AMALEXANDER BURNS

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Good Tuesday morning.
The debate on Tuesday night between Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana comes at a critical point in the race, with Donald J. Trump reeling from a disastrous stretch and Hillary Clinton reaching for a clear upper hand in the campaign’s final weeks.
Against that backdrop, two genial and comparatively laid-back politicians, who share a deep religious faith that has shaped their careers, will meet at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., for what will be their only face-to-face of the campaign.
Here are some of the dynamics we will be watching:
Pence and Kaine will not be the main focus at their own debate.
Do not let their physical presence onstage fool you: These two men may serve more as stand-ins for their running mates than as combatants in their own right.
In a conventional race, the vice-presidential candidates might engage in a thorough discussion of each other’s records. But in a campaign defined by two larger-than-life presidential nominees, Mr. Kaine and Mr. Pence are more likely to punch upward, with Mr. Kaine prosecuting the case against Mr. Trump’s temperament and character, and Mr. Pence pressing the message that Mrs. Clinton cannot change Washington the way Mr. Trump can.
If the debate comes down to playing defense, Pence has the tougher task.
Mr. Pence can expect to be challenged on Mr. Trump’s denigrating comments about Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe; on Mr. Trump’s attacks on Mrs. Clinton’s marriage; and on the prospect that Mr. Trump may have gone nearly two decades without paying federal taxes. And those are just the hits from last week.
Up to this point, Mr. Pence has proven adept at deflecting questions about Mr. Trump’s incendiary comments, redirecting interviews to rote talking points about shaking up Washington. But a debate is an entirely different format.
Will this debate be a culture war?
In the first face off between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, there was no discussion of abortion, contraception, gay rights or religious liberty — issues that define so much of American politics. In part, that is because Mr. Trump has never shown much enthusiasm for these issues. Mr. Pence and Mr. Kaine are different.
A Christian conservative, Mr. Pence is a longtime opponent of abortion and a champion of defunding Planned Parenthood. As governor, he signed and then scaled back a law that was widely criticized as opening the door to discrimination against gay men and lesbians by private businesses. While Mr. Kaine, a liberal Catholic, has ample opportunities to brand Mr. Pence as being too far to the right, he may also have to defend his strong opposition to the death penalty and mixed views on abortion.
Will the debate test the candidates’ nice-guy images?
In a brutal political season, Mr. Pence and Mr. Kaine have been likened to sitcom dads for their good humor and overall gentleness. The debate on Tuesday will put those nice-guy images to their most strenuous test.
Vice President George Bush and Representative Geraldine A. Ferraro before the vice-presidential debate in Philadelphia in 1984.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

As Gov. Mike Pence and Senator Tim Kaine prepare to take the stage, we take a look back at how some of their vice-presidential debate predecessors have fared.

Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, after speaking last month at a Baptist church in Jacksonville, Fla.

Bob Mack/The Florida Times-Union, via Associated Press

This campaign has largely been absent of the social issues that were at the heart of the country’s political divide for decades. That might change at Tuesday’s vice-presidential debate.


Polls show that roughly a third of voters have no opinion or have never heard of each vice-presidential nominee. We spent weeks with them on the trail so you did not have to.

Donald J. Trump addressed his taxes at a campaign rally on Monday in Pueblo, Colo.

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

More than 500,000 individual taxpayers took advantage of the same tax rule as Mr. Trump in 1995. Their average loss: just $97,600.

Donald J. Trump leaving Trump Tower in Manhattan in June 1990. Mr. Trump had amassed $3.4 billion in debt by that year.

Mario Suriani/Associated Press

Tax forms and public records show how debt that Mr. Trump amassed fueled enormous losses.

Hillary Clinton issued a blistering attack on Donald J. Trump on Monday during an economic speech in Toledo, Ohio.

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

In Ohio, Mrs. Clinton said revelations that Mr. Trump could have avoided paying income taxes for up to 18 years showed he put “his own interests ahead of the country’s.”

On the Trail

Mrs. Clinton has two events in Pennsylvania, including one with Chelsea Clinton and the actress Elizabeth Banks. Michelle Obama will also be on the trail for Mrs. Clinton with two rallies in North Carolina.
Mr. Trump has a rally in Arizona.
Donald J. Trump spoke about national defense in front of retired military personnel in Herndon, Va., on Monday.

State Attorney General Orders Trump Foundation to Cease Raising Money in New York


Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general, said a charities bureau had determined that the Donald J. Trump Foundation was not registered to solicit donations under state law.

Donald Trump in New Hampshire in September.

The Trump Campaign’s Questionable Tax Return Justification


Experts scoffed at campaign officials’ argument that Donald J. Trump had a “fiduciary duty” to pay no more tax than required.

Donald J. Trump spoke in front of retired military veterans in Herndon, Va., on Monday.

Donald Trump Says a Strong Defense Against Cyberattacks Is Essential


Cyberattacks from foreign governments “constitute one of our most critical national security concerns,” Mr. Trump told a group of military veterans in Virginia.

The Upshot

Workers making car dash mats at a factory in Juarez, Mexico. American cars are often made with a complex mix of components from Mexico and Canada as well as the United States.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre/Associated Press

Abandoning the free-trade deal with America’s neighbors would mean upending major industries and a generation’s worth of economic integration.


Donald Trump’s strength among white working-class voters continues to offer him a narrow opening to victory.

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Senator Mitch McConnell, center, the majority leader, has long articulated his belief that a divided government can spur politically risky deals that neither party would attempt alone.

McConnell and Ryan Are of Two Minds About Divided Government


The next president will test either Senator Mitch McConnell’s belief that bipartisanship can lead to significant progress, or Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s preference for single-party control.

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request to reconsider a challenge to President Obama’s plan to spare millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally in the United States.

Supreme Court Rejects Plea to Reconsider Obama’s Immigration Plan


The Obama administration had argued that a matter of such importance should be resolved by a nine-member court.

Demonstrators for and against same-sex marriage gathered on Wednesday in front of the Montgomery courthouse as Chief Justice Roy S. Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court testified in the case against him.

Judges Who Are Elected Like Politicians Tend to Act Like Them


Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. of the Supreme Court has advised all judges to ignore public sentiment, but studies have found that elections can affect judicial behavior.

Andrew Kaczynski appearing on CNN in 2013. Mr. Kaczynski is one of four people from the BuzzFeed politics team hired away this week to work for CNN.

Four From BuzzFeed Politics Defect to CNN


Andrew Kaczynski and his team, which has made headlines unearthing audio and video on the campaign trail, leave BuzzFeed short-handed in the final weeks before the election.

What We’re Reading Elsewhere

The Washington Post writes that Mrs. Clinton’s email issues raise an important point: “It’s sort of amazing how little the two candidates for the presidency seem to know about one of the most important aspects of American society — the Internet.”
The Associated Press takes a look at accusations by cast and crew members from Mr. Trump’s show, “The Apprentice,” of “lewd and sexist” behavior by Mr. Trump on set.
In its latest analysis, FiveThirtyEight says that Florida has become the most crucial state for Mr. Trump.
Bloomberg argues that “events are conspiring to make Clinton or Trump the most powerful player in the effort to slow global warming.”