Kaine, Pence to face off in VP debate


From Farmville, Virginia -

Overshadowed by the occupants of the top spot on their respective party tickets, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia will meet here at a small college in the Old Dominion on Tuesday night, seeing if they can give their campaign a boost for November.

"It's change versus the status quo," said Pence about the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, as Trump's running mate made clear he is ready to use the VP debate to go after both Clinton and Kaine.

"While I expect we're going to be talking about the visions and the choice the American people face at the top of the ticket, I kind of hope we get to talk about our records as well," Pence said during a rally in Ashland, Virginia, just north of the city of Richmond, where Tim Kaine was elected mayor almost twenty years ago.

Pence told supporters he is ready to go to Longwood University and push Kaine about Hillary Clinton's foreign policy choices.

"I mean, Hillary Clinton's record on foreign policy could take up the whole 90 minutes," Pence said, as he told supporters, "I'm looking forward" to the debate.

While the polls show an uphill fight for Trump here in Virginia, Pence argued the outlook was getting better overall for the Republicans in November.

Many polls since the first Trump-Clinton debate a week ago in New York show a bump for Clinton; Pence's job is to help turn that around, and he urged on the crowd with a number of attacks on both Hillary Clinton and the news media.

"The media is so busy parsing every word that Donald Trump said in the last thirty minutes, they've been ignoring what the Clintons have been up to for the last thirty years," Trump said to big cheers.

As for Tuesday night's debate, there is always an argument about whether or not this debate means anything - whether it is the equivalent of John Nance+ Garner's "warm bucket of spit" line about the Vice President's job itself.

Even after the infamous, "Who am I? Why am I here?" line by James Stockdale in 1992, there was "no notable difference in polls before and after Stockdale's stunningly odd performance," said Melissa Michelson, a political science professor at Menlo College.

In other words, the basic goal is "don't screw up."

On the ground here in Virginia

I spent the last three days - two with my wife and kids, and Monday by myself - driving through a good chunk of Virginia, and it is a microcosm of what's going on around the nation.

In the immediate suburbs of Washington, D.C., it's not hard to find Hillary Clinton signs and supporters - but outside of northern Virginia, I didn't see any evidence of Clinton support.

While Clinton dominates in the immediate suburbs and urban areas of Northern Virginia, Trump is almost invisible there - but then you drive to Williamsburg or the rural counties on either side of Richmond, and the script turns the other way, as there are no Clinton signs, while "Trump-Pence" is on a lot of lawns.


The one warning sign I noted for Trump today was the absence of Trump signs in Chesterfield County, a growing and affluent county to the west and southwest of Richmond, the state Capitol.

This is an area that Trump lost in the GOP primary to Marco Rubio, and emblematic of the question that is unanswered at this point - will suburban voters (especially women) in Chesterfield County turn out in big numbers for Trump?

The issue of Trump's ground game came up at the Pence rally, when local Congressman Dave Brat (R-VA) was urging the crowd to get out and support Donald Trump.

Brat asked how many people had been knocking on doors for Trump, to get out the vote for November. Only a couple hands went up.

Brat then asked how many people had been making phone calls for Trump. Again, only a couple of hands went up. It was obvious that in this crowd, there were few people who were volunteering for the Trump campaign.

But when Brat asked if the crowd had been urging friends to vote for Trump, almost every hand went up.

This election is going to be a big test of the ground game of the two political parties.

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