Voters often forget that when they go into that voting booth in November, they aren’t just voting for a party’s presidential nominee. As mandated by the 12th Amendment, ratified in 1804, each presidential nominee is constitutionally required to run on a ticket with a candidate who, if elected, would serve as their vice president.
The importance of the position of vice president should not be understated; of the 43 men who have served as president in American history, four were assassinated, four died of natural causes, and one resigned. In each of these cases, the vice president has assumed their position. These men – including the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson – went on to have a considerable influence on American history.
In the mess of the current election, with extraordinarily prominent figures at the top of the Democratic and Republican tickets, it’s often easy to explain why so few Americans, when polled, are unable to name Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump’s often-overshadowed running mates.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., were chosen by their party’s nominee just prior to their respective national conventions. Both Kaine and Pence were relatively unknown outside of their home states, but jumped into the national spotlight after being chosen in July.
Both candidates are also seen as having experience in politics. Kaine was elected governor of Virginia in 2005 and then went on to be elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012. Pence began his career in Congress, representing Indiana from 2001 to 2013, deciding in 2012 to run for Indiana governor, which he was elected to shortly thereafter. “I admire Kaine because he was a mayor, a governor, and a senator, which is rare,” junior Alex Hodes said.
The sole vice presidential debate, sponsored by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, took place on Oct. 2 at Longwood University in Farmville, Va. The debate was widely regarded as a battle between the two presidential nominees’ chief surrogates, and was marked by constant interruptions by both Kaine and Pence.
Moderated by Elaine Quijano of CBS News, the candidates engaged in fierce attacks against each other continuously throughout the debate. The debate was split into nine parts, with each candidate being granted two minutes to respond to Quijano’s question, followed by a period in which either candidate could talk – a recipe for disaster, as both candidates obviously wanted to have the last word in each discussion.
The candidates debated about a multitude of topics, ranging from the economy to terrorism to their running mates’ own flaws. Pence, hailed by many Republicans as a “true conservative,” found himself mostly on the offense, sticking the Clinton-Kaine campaign to Obama’s record on the economy and foreign crises, which he described as poor. Kaine fought back hard, citing Pence’s cleaning-up of nearly every problem the Trump campaign has dealt with.
Many saw Pence as remaining a more principled demeanor consistently throughout the debate. “Mike Pence was passionate and principled and stayed calm, which I respected,” junior Mitchell Fanger said.
While not likely to change anybody’s mind, news agencies and political correspondents generally saw it as a tie, if not slightly better for Pence. One of the only memorable moments of the debate the next day was Pence accidentally calling Longwood University, “Norwood University.”
Kaine and Pence will continue to campaign hard for the role as vice president, and with candidates at ages 68 and 70, it is all too possible that one could end up having to step up as president one day. “We should choose the vice president carefully,” junior Emma Henderson.