Riding the coat-tails of the record-breaking debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the vice presidential face-off is expected to bring in large audience numbers. The debate, held on Tuesday, Oct. 4 is a prime opportunity for Indiana governor Mike Pence and Virginia senator Tim Kaine to introduce themselves to the nation–especially since many Americans don’t even know their names.
According to an ABC News/SSRS poll, 41% of respondents couldn’t correctly name Pence as the GOP vice-presidential nominee, and 46% couldn’t identify Tim Kaine as Hillary Clinton’s running mate (although it’s important to note that the sample size is quite small: 245).
As a comparison, by the end of September 2012, several days before the vice-presidential debate, only 18% of respondents either never heard of or had no opinion of Paul Ryan, the GOP nominee according to a Gallup poll.
Neither Kaine nor Pence are well-known among the voting public, and the debate isn’t really about them. They will be acting as Clinton and Trump’s surrogates, maybe even attack dogs. But if they strike a right balance, they will also be able to raise their own profiles.
Vice-presidential debates rarely change voter’s minds, according to a Gallup survey. But a close look at these nominees might be particularly important, for many reasons, including the simple fact that they are probably more likely to become president than other recent VP nominees: both Clinton and Trump are older candidates, and highly unpopular.