With the most unfavorable candidates in U.S. history running the head of the two major political parties, 2016 tends to break all the rules when it comes to established norms.
And for many, the vice presidential candidate picks neither compliment nor devalue their view of either nominee.
So what should we expect from the potential VP’s in a debate? Historically, not that much.
For this debate, it’ll be more or less a solid introduction to the two nominees.
Sen. Tim Kaine seems like he’d be more at home behind an outdoor grill with a six-pack of Bud Light than on a debate stage, and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is just a watered down version of a Trump surrogate.
The VP choices have yet to run a full news cycle, overshadowed by their political bigs and mostly swept under the rug because they just don’t produce interesting sound bites.
However, even in a normal election year, VP candidates don’t swing the odds for either party, even in swing states.
The standing cliché for a VP pick is that their role is to do no harm, and the candidates have done an outstanding job at it.
A VP pick is meant to touch up a nominee’s weaknesses and not to take up any limelight.
The importance of a low key VP became very clear in the 2008 election when Republican John McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose unhinged shoot-em-up caricature launched a movement of its own.
For the most part, VP debates aren’t remembered for their content; no tweet-worthy quotes, and no amazing quips. Save, of course, for the sickest VP burn ever delivered by Lloyd Bentsen in the 1988 election to undercut a younger Dan Quayle.
When Quayle compared himself to the late Jack Kennedy, Bentsen slayed him with a one-liner heard around the world.
“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy,” Bentsen said. “… You’re no Jack Kennedy.”
Quayle then went on to become the VP anyway, but was never able to shake that burn.
Debates are a quality way to challenge ideals and solidify support among uncertain supporters. They can even make or break the delicate balance in states like Florida or Ohio, but when it comes to candidates’ running mates, it’s more of a PBS special than breaking news.