Mike Pence plans to show his “feisty” side as he squares off Tuesday night against Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine at their first and only debate, according to Donald Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway.
Unlike the Republican presidential nominee, Trump’s running mate is not known for his showmanship or political flair. But the face-off comes at a critical time for both Kaine and Pence, amid turmoil at the top of their respective tickets -- and could call for a change-up in style.
Conway told Fox News’ “Hannity” that Pence has been preparing rigorously and plans to use the debate Tuesday night at Virginia's Longwood University to go after Hillary Clinton’s record.
“I think you’re going to see … a feisty Mike Pence take on the record of Hillary Clinton and hold her accountable for the failures of her policies as secretary of state,” she said Monday night.
For his part, Kaine has been studying “big binders” of details, according to a close aide. The aide said Kaine, too, knows the debate is “about the top of the ticket.”
While Pence is gearing up to go after Clinton, one aide involved in Kaine’s preparations said of the Indiana governor: "Let's see if he is willing to defend Trump."
The debate is a chance for each campaign to calm the waters.
Trump is taking heat over the details in newly published tax documents that allegedly show the nominee suffered more than $900 million in losses in 1995 that could have allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes for as many as 18 years. He also had a rocky first debate. Clinton, meanwhile, was reeling over the weekend release of audio appearing to show Clinton telling donors that some Bernie Sanders supporters were children of the recession “living in their parents’ basement.”
The single debate for the running mates is always a more low-key affair than the trio of presidential showdowns. That's particularly true in an election where the candidates at the top of the ticket are such outsized figures who have been in the public eye for decades.
While last week's first debate between Trump and Clinton drew a record-setting television audience of about 84 million people, the Pence-Kaine contest is expected to be watched by far fewer viewers.
For many of those who do tune in, the debate is likely to be one of their first opportunities to thoroughly assess the men who could be next in line for the presidency.
Kaine is a friendly and earnest political veteran whose easygoing demeanor is similar to Pence. He's tried to serve as a validator of Clinton's character, eager to offset the questions many Americans have about her honesty and trustworthiness.
Kaine spent several days preparing for the debate in Raleigh, North Carolina, and in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, which is about an hour west of the debate site. Washington lawyer Robert Barnett has been playing the role of Pence in Kaine's debate preparations.
Pence, too, has been meticulously preparing for the showdown, a contrast with Trump, who eschewed traditional study sessions and practice debates. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has stood in as Kaine in the prep sessions.
Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.