The first and only VP debate is tonight – how to watch and what to expect

Gov. Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Kaine will square off Tuesday night in their one and only debate as vice presidential nominees.
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Gov. Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Kaine will square off Tuesday night in their one and only debate as vice presidential nominees.

The 90-minute debate begins at 8 p.m., and even though 40 percent of Americans can't name the two VP candidates, this debate could matter more than previous vice presidential debates.

That's because it'll be less about Pence and Kaine. Instead they'll be on stage serving as stand-ins for their running mates, trying to reassure voters that they're the right person to lead the country, the New York Times explains.

Tuesday's debate could also be the "must substantive" of any this fall, with National Public Radio pointing out both Pence and Kaine are less willing to go negative (unlike their running mates), so it could give them more time to talk policy – something NBC News says they're both "well steeped" in thanks to their long careers in politics.

Here's a look at what both VP candidates might want to do during the debate to help their candidate win over voters.

Pence and Trump

On one side, there's Pence, the GOP governor of Indiana. His task Tuesday night has "never been more critical," The Associated Press says, noting he's playing cleanup for Donald Trump.

Pence needs to refocus Trump's message after what the New York Times is calling a "disastrous week" on the campaign trail (poor debate perception, the Alicia Machado attacks, the New York Times' tax report). Pence will have to dismiss attacks on his running mate, while highlighting Hillary Clinton's problems.

“[Pence] needs to come across as a calming presence on the Republican ticket, and he could be placed on the defensive, given how Trump has handled himself since his first debate with Clinton,” Robert Schmuhl, professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame, told USA Today.

Kaine and Clinton

Then there's Kaine, a Virginia senator who was born in St. Paul.

CNN says Kaine will try to solidify the gains Clinton made following the first presidential debate, while also making up for what she lacks. NBC News reports the majority of Americans still have trouble seeing her as honest and straightforward, but Kaine is the opposite – he's seen as earnest, trustworthy, likable and the "epitome of dad jokes."

Kaine may also have to address some controversy with Clinton, including the emails and why she took paid speeches from Wall Street, NPR says.

How to watch

The debate will be divided into nine segments of roughly 10 minutes each, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates. The moderator – CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano – will ask an opening question, and each candidate will have 2 minutes to respond, and then the rest of the time will be used for deeper discussion on the topic.

And you can watch it just about anywhere.

  • It will be broadcast on every major TV network and cable news channel.
  • It'll be streaming online on most networks websites, as well as a bunch of other media outlets like YouTube, CBSN, Yahoo, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed News and the Daily Caller, Wired says.
  • You can also watch it on social media. Facebook and Twitter will be streaming it live, and Snapchat will feature the debate in its Stories (but not the entire debate), Quartz reports.
  • If you want to listen instead of watch, National Public Radio will be airing the debate on all of its member stations, as well as on its website and through its NPROne app.

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