Mike Pence vs. Tim Kaine: Why this debate really counts

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For potential vice presidents, second-string life begins on the campaign trail as they mold their message to the policies of the nominees who picked them and try not to steal their candidates' thunder.

Even Lyndon Johnson, the Senate Majority Leader whose imposing personality reigned over Capitol Hill, was in the background when he was the running mate of Senator John F. Kennedy whose youth and glamour-soaked up most of the spotlight in the election of 1960.

Related: Five Debate Moments that Changed Elections

Recent exceptions are the late Geraldine Ferraro, who was defeated along with Walter Mondale in the election of 1984, and Sarah Palin.

Ferraro and Palin received a lot of attention because there had never been a woman Veep, and former Alaska Governor Palin got even more notice because of her brash demeanor and apparent lack of preparation for national office. Moreover, because of the tension between Palin and the man at the top of the 2008 GOP ticket, Senator John McCain, she violated one of the cardinal rules of vice-presidential candidates: First, do no harm.

Of course, Palin was not the only Veep-to-be who wound up in the hot lights and damaged a ticket.

Senator Thomas Eagleton of Missouri momentarily took center stage in the election of 1972 as the running mate of George McGovern when it was revealed that he had wrestled with mental health problems and undergone electric shock therapy. He was replaced 18 days after he was selected, but not before he hurt the already dim chances that McGovern would be elected

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Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the campaign trail since the RNC
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Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the campaign trail since the RNC
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives for a rally at Duplin County Events Center in Kenansville, North Carolina on September 20, 2016. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ESTERO, FL - SEPTEMBER 19: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Germain Arena on September 19, 2016 in Estero, Florida. Trump is locked in a tight race against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in Florida as the November 8th election nears. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the JetCenters of Colorado in Colorado Springs, Colorado on September 17, 2016. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0534 -- Pictured: (l-r) Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on September 15, 2016 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at the Bethel United Methedoist Church on September 14, 2016 in Flint, Michigan. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 13: U.S. Republican vice presidental nominee Gov. Mike Pence addresses a news conference with House GOP leaders following a conference at Republican headquaters on Capitol Hill September 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. When asked about former vice presidential candidate Speaker Paul Ryan's reluctance to endorse presidential candidate Donald Trump, Pence said that the House Republicans and the campaign agree on a plan for America. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, greets attendees after speaking at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. Any path Trump might take to the presidency inevitably leads through the Rust Belt and industrial Midwest the places the Republican nominee describes as 'rusting and rotting' war zones of manufacturing decline. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: (L-R) Chairman and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and Executive Managing Director, North America for BGC, Daniel LaVecchia attend Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
AKRON, OH - AUGUST 22: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters at the James A. Rhodes Arena on August 22, 2016 in Akron, Ohio. Trump currently trails Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Ohio, a state which is critical to his election bid. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
FREDERICKSBURG, VA - AUGUST 20: GOP nominee Donald Trump holds a rally in Fredricksburg, VA on August 20, 2016 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage)
US Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters at the Summit Sports and Ice Complex on August 19, 2016 in Diamondale, Michigan. / AFP / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, pauses while speaking during a campaign rally at the Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. Two days after Trump said that President Barack Obama had founded Islamic State, and a day after he insisted that he meant what he said, the Republican presidential nominee reversed himself on Friday and claimed the statement was nothing more than sarcasm. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, speaks during a campaign rally at the Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. Two days after Trump said that President Barack Obama had founded Islamic State, and a day after he insisted that he meant what he said, the Republican presidential nominee reversed himself on Friday and claimed the statement was nothing more than sarcasm. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
SUNRISE, FL - AUGUST 10: Republican presidential candidate Donald J.Trump addresses the audience during a campaign event at BB&T Center on August 10th, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Johnny Louis/WireImage)
WILMINGTON, NC - AUGUST 9: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with supporters during a campaign event at Trask Coliseum on August 9, 2016 in Wilmington, North Carolina. This was TrumpÃs first visit to Southeastern North Carolina since he entered the presidential race. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, is seen on a monitor speaking during an event to discuss his economic plans at the Detroit Economic Club in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 8, 2016. Trump is promising the biggest overhaul to the personal income-tax code since Ronald Reagan, as well as a deep cut in the corporate tax rate. He's also pledging to end excessive regulation and lift restrictions on the nation's energy producers. Photographer: Sean Proctor/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PORTLAND, ME - AUGUST 4: Presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Maine Gov. Paul LePage being introduced at a rally in Merrill Auditorium on Thursday, August 4, 2016. (Photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - JULY 29: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump waves to supporters after his speech at the Gallogly Event Center on the campus of the University of Colorado on July 29, 2016 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Photo by Joe Mahoney/Getty Images)
SCRANTON, PA - JULY 27: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters on July 27, 2016 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Trump spoke at the Lackawanna College Student Union Gymnasium. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
DORAL, FL - JULY 27: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a press conference at Trump National Doral on July 27, 2016 in Doral, Florida. Trump spoke about the Democratic Convention and called on Russia to find Hillary Clinton's deleted e-mails. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, waves to the crowd after addressing the 117th annual VFW National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JULY 26: Republican vice presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump looks on at the 117th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States as veterans strive for a photo at the Charlotte Convention Center on July 26, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. One day after Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton faced the same group, Trump promised a revision to health care for veterans. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
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And George H.W. Bush's running mate, Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana brought scorn down on the 1992 Republican ticket when he corrected a schoolboy's spelling of "potato," urging him to add an "e."

This election year, with the constant notoriety of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – both globally famous before the campaign – the undercard seems more under than ever.

Related: Trump Was Unprepared and Out of His Depth on Debate Stage

But in the only debate between the vice presidential candidates on October 4, America will get a chance to take the full measure of Mike Pence, the running mate of GOP nominee Donald Trump, and Tim Kaine, the Veep choice of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

No one expects the debate to draw the record 84 million viewers who watched the first matchup between Trump and Clinton (there are two more) on Sept. 26. But because the nominees at the top of both tickets are so widely disliked, the Veep choices next in line to be president may get closer scrutiny.

Here is how they match up:

TIM KAINE
Age: 58
Birthplace: Minnesota
Religion: Roman Catholic
Ancestry: Mostly Irish
Education: BA economics, U. of Missouri; JD, Harvard Law School
Military Service: None, but one son is a Marine officer
Current Job: U.S. Senator from Virginia
Occupation: Career politician
Politics: Centrist Democrat
Ethics: As governor of Virginia, he accepted $160,000 worth of gifts (including an $18,000 Caribbean vacation), which was legal under the state's permissive ethics laws.
Fun Fact: Took Time off from Harvard Law School to run a Jesuit school in Honduras.

MIKE PENCE
Age: 57
Birthplace: Indiana
Religion: Roman Catholic originally, now Evangelical Christian
Ancestry: Mostly Irish
Education: BA Hanover College, JD Indiana University School of Law
Military Service: None, but one son is a Marine officer
Current Job: Governor of Indiana
Occupation: Politician, talk show host
Politics: Social and fiscal Conservative
Ethics: In 1990 as a 31-year-old running for Congress, Pence used campaign donations to make mortgage and car payments, service credit card bills, buy groceries and for golf tournament fees, which was legal at the time, according to The Washington Post.
Fun Fact: As a talk show host he called himself "Russ Limbaugh on decaf."

Related" The Most Important Point Clinton Made in Her Debate Against Trump

Apart from their politics, both Pence and Kaine seem to have a lot in common on paper. They are about the same age, both are originally Midwesterners of largely Irish ancestry, both began life as Catholics, both are lawyers, both have spent the bulk of their careers in politics and both have sons in the Marines.

RELATED: Hillary Clinton & Tim Kaine

24 PHOTOS
Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine on the trail since the DNC
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Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine on the trail since the DNC
NEW YORK, NY- Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to journalists after meeting national security experts for a National Security Working Session at the New York Historical Society Library in Manhattan, New York on Friday September 9, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 09: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) greets actress Laverne Cox during he LGBT for Hillary Gala at Cipriani Club on September 9, 2016 in New York City. Hillary Clinton is attending fundraisers and in New York City. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WHITE PLAINS, NY - Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to the Press Corp on the airport tarmac in front of her campaign plane before flying off on a day of campaigning in White Plains, New York on Thursday September 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, at the Baptist National Convention at Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Mo. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
New York, NY - Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participates in a NBC/MSNBC/Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Commander in Chief Forum in midtown Manhattan in New York, New York on Wednesday September 7, 2016. Hosted by Today show co-anchor Matt Lauer. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has her picture taken with a supporter during a voter registration rally at the University of South Florida on September 6, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. Hillary Clinton is campaigning in Florida. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 05: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally at Luke Easter Park on September 5, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Clinton is on a Labor Day campaign swing to Ohio and Iowa on a new campaign plane large enough to accommodate her traveling press corp. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 05: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets a supporter during a campaign rally at Luke Easter Park on September 5, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Clinton is kicking off a Labor Day campaign swing to Ohio and Iowa on a new campaign plane large enough to accommodate her traveling press corp. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, speaks at a campaign event during The American Legion National Convention at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Clinton told a veterans group that U.S. leadership is vital to the world and, drawing a contrast with Republican Donald Trump, said that means the White House is no place for a leader who insults allies or threatens to shrink from that role. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 30: Democratic nominee for Vice President Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., holds a campaign rally at the Boys & Girls Club in Lancaster, Pa., on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE - 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' airs every weeknight at 11:35 p.m. EDT and features a diverse lineup of guests that includes celebrities, athletes, musical acts, comedians and human interest subjects, along with comedy bits and a house band. The guests for Monday, August 22 included Presidential Nominee and former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and John Krasinski ('The Hollars'). (Photo by Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images) HILLARY CLINTON, JIMMY KIMMEL
MANHATTAN, NY - AUGUST 18: U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton meets with law enforcement experts at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, NY, on August 18, 2016. (Photo by Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 17: Democratic candidate for President Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters during a Hillary for America rally at John Marshall High School on August 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH-August 17: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tours John Marshall High School August 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Clinton was scheduled to speak at a rally at the school. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH-August 17: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives at Cleveland Hopkins Airport August 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Clinton was scheduled to speak at a rally at John Marshall High School. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 15: Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden conduct a campaign rally at Riverfront Sports in Scranton, Pa., August 15, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Scranton, PA - AUGUST 15: Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton greets supporters after holding a rally with Vice President Joe Biden at Riverfront Sports athletic facility on August 15, 2016 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tours Futuramic Tool & Engineering, before delivering an economic speech and job creation, in Detroit, Michigan on Thursday August 11, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
KISSIMMEE, FL - AUGUST 08: Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton stands with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) as she attends a campaign rally at the Exhibition Hall in Kissimmee, Florida on August 8, 2016. Clinton continues to campaign to become the President of the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tours a small business, Mojave Electric, in Las Vegas, Nevada on Thursday August 4, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 01: Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) poses for photos with supporters during a campaign event August 1, 2016 in Richmond, Virginia. Kaine returns to campaign in a homecoming rally after he was picked to be the running mate of Hillary Clinton. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - On the third day of a bus tour through Pennsylvania and Ohio, Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton along with running mate Senator Tim Kaine, and Anne Holton, aboard the campaign bus in Cleveland, Ohio on Sunday July 31, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - On the second day of a bus tour through Pennsylvania and Ohio, Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton along with running mate Senator Tim Kaine, Anne Holton, and President Bill Clinton, speak to and meet Pennsylvania voters during a rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saturday, July 30, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Unlike either Trump or Clinton, both have experience as government executives. Pence is the governor of Indiana; Kaine was the governor of Virginia. And because neither one seems to have the blood lust gene, they haven't been the attack dogs that nominees often want to unleash.

Trump has left that role to surrogates like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. And Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, whose relationship with Clinton has sometimes been frosty, has repeatedly gone after the GOP nominee.

Pence arguably has had the more difficult job being second banana, and he has gently broken with Trump during the campaign. While Trump initially held off endorsing the re-election bid of GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan, Pence did not. And Pence is probably partially responsible for ending Trump's press blacklist.

In the past, Pence also has been a full-throated supporter of the trade deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), that Trump rails against, but like Kaine, he is a good soldier and now lines up with his commander.

Tuesday night, they both will have the same mission: Demonstrate that they are solid, strong and up to the job of filling a president's shoes, forcefully brush back attacks on their running mates, and most of all, do no harm.

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