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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

VP debate with Tim Kaine, Mike Pence has unusual aspects

Tables set up for the media are being

Tables set up for the media are being wired for the vice-presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. The school is hosting the lone vice-presidential debate on October 4. Credit: AP / Steve Helber

The vice presidential debate on Tuesday night promises to be unusual on several counts.

The parallel between the careers of Republican Gov. Mike Pence, 57, of Indiana and Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, 58, of Virginia is striking. Both were elected to their current posts in 2012 and have served in Congress and as governors of their respective states.

The rivals have more time in elected office than either of their presidential candidates. Donald Trump has never served in public office and Hillary Clinton served a term and a third in the Senate before being appointed secretary of state.

Since Donald Trump, 70, would be the oldest president if elected and Hillary Clinton is only 16 months younger, their running-mates may have a reasonable expectation of contending for the top job in a future election.

The current and previous vice presidents, by contrast, were older than their chief executives.

Some partisans even like Kaine and Pence more than they do the presidential candidates.

The similarities seem to end when you compare what they actually support and oppose.

Pence, identified with the so-called tea party, endorsed Ted Cruz in April against Trump, who repeatedly labeled the Texas senator a liar, mocked his wife’s appearance and linked his father without evidence to the JFK assassination.

“I’m not against anybody, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz in the Republican primary,” Pence said at the time, hailing Cruz’s “knowledge of the Constitution.”

For his part, Kaine holds the expected Democratic credentials, but differed at times with organized labor and backers of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who galvanized a movement from Clinton’s left to which she saw fit to make concessions.

Kaine voted to “fast-track” the Trans-Pacific Partnership bill but and like Clinton opposes the deal as now presented. As Virginia governor, he supported “right-to-work” laws that preceded his time in office, but has since signalled to the AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka he’s with the unions on the matter.

Given Pence’s conventionally proper public demeanor, it is difficult to imagine him echoing boss Trump word-for-word in such bizarre messages as “Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?”

But Pence has, of course, defended Trump on the trail. When the New York billionaire said Clinton’s security detail should drop its weapons and “let’s see what happens to her,” Pence sought to put the comments in a less provocative light.

“I think what Donald Trump was saying is that if Hillary Clinton didn’t have all that security, she’d probably be a whole lot more supportive of the Second Amendment,” Pence explained last month.

The 90-minute debate is scheduled for Tuesday at 9 p.m., at Longwood University in Farmville, Va. with Elaine Quijano of CBS News acting as moderator.

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