5 things to watch in the vice presidential debate

Trump’s taxes are the single most effective attack line Clinton’s campaign has against him in the homestretch, a slow-motion scandal akin to her slow-drip email nightmare. His refusal to release the returns — and his ill-considered blurt that he was “smart” to avoid paying at the first debate was followed by a bombshell of sorts: The New York Times was leaked portions of his 1995 tax return showing that he lost nearly a billion bucks on his lousy casino and real estate deals.

.. If there’s any pressure on Kaine, it’s that he has a reputation as a very good debater, a point my colleague Anna Palmer made recently, evidenced by his cool dismantling of opponent George Allen in the 2012 Virginia Senate race.

.. Despite his nice-guy rep, Kaine has a mean(ish) streak, and has no problem going negative. His somewhat awkward convention speech featured a game, if not quite Alec-Baldwin-quality imitation of Trump, and his stump speech is peppered with attack lines.

Kaine’s plan: Turn Pence into Trump

One Senate ally calls on Kaine to make Pence ‘own every bit of Trump’s radical, racist, misogynist agenda.’

Pence will already have his talking points down on Tuesday evening — and getting him to deviate could prove nearly impossible.

.. Pence’s job is to steady the ship and remind conservatives what the Republican Party stands for: a pro-growth economic agenda and a break from the left-leaning policies of President Barack Obama.

..What’s extraordinary for Pence, however, is just how many individual topics he must be prepared to defend Trump on to get to his more orthodox pitch to Republican voters.

.. “Is Mike Pence going to aggressively defend his running mate when he hasn’t necessarily been inclined to go on full defense [in the past]?” asked a Kaine aide in an

.. Kaine’s allies are looking for Pence to either assume all of Trump’s rhetoric and positions or to publicly acknowledge disagreements with Trump. Either conclusion would be a win for Kaine and his fellow Democrats. Pence has been quick to laughingly admit he has a different “style” than Trump, but he will work hard to keep any daylight on policy from emerging between he and Trump.

.. “I hope Tim makes Pence own every bit of Trump’s radical, racist, misogynist agenda.”

.. And if Pence can weather Kaine’s Trump barbs, he’ll have a chance to stabilize the Republican ticket by simply contrasting his conservative bona fides with Clinton’s more liberal agenda.

.. Then there are Kaine’s own breaks with Clinton. He personally supports the Hyde Amendment, which bans taxpayer-funded abortions, yet says he will work with Clinton to overturn it as vice president. He praised the Trans-Pacific Partnership the same week he was selected as Clinton’s running mate, then came out against it.

.. “In any debate, he tries to be whatever the audience needs him to be,” Kilgore said of Kaine, whose raised eyebrow is a signature look.

.. more than 40 percent of voters don’t know who either Pence or Kaine is,

Just How ‘Responsible’ a Choice Is Tim Kaine?

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has chosen a male version of herself. Like Clinton, Tim Kaine is a culturally conservative liberal. He’s a devout Catholic who personally opposes abortion despite believing it should be legal. For her part, Clinton is a devout Methodist—she’s taught Sunday school, lectured on Methodist theology and participated in various prayer groups—who is personally skeptical of abortion, too. In 2005, she called it “a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women” and looked forward to the day when “the choice guaranteed under our Constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances.”

.. In foreign policy, Clinton has tended to define the “responsible” position as the more hawkish one.

.. Her choice of Kaine underscores her disciplined, serious, earnest approach to governing. But it also underscores her tendency—so tragically in evidence when she voted to invade Iraq—to run with the Washington herd.

5 takeaways on Tim Kaine

Pence projects the oh-gosh steadiness of a high school principal who picks up a stray candy wrapper while he is asking about your kids; Kaine is the guy who spent a year in Honduras teaching school to poor kids and another six coaching lawyers on ethics at the University of Richmond Law School. As mayor of Virginia’s capital, and later in the statehouse, he earned a clean-hands reputation — and you will not find any one of his Senate colleagues on either side of the aisle evince a single nasty thing about him.]

.. People close to Clinton were telling me as early as February that there really wasn’t anyone else on their short list. The main reason Clinton chose Kaine is so simple as to be unbelievable: She thinks he could serve as president if she can’t, and didn’t think anyone else she talked to fit that criterion. “She’s been in the White House, and knows the kind of person who can really do the job. … He gives off president vibes. And that’s all that mattered to Hillary,”

.. Pence’s pick was, in part, intended to minimize the damage Ted Cruz’s public rejection of Trump would inflict on the nominee’s standing among conservative freedom-and-values voters. Kaine, the scion of the Scots-Irish, is as well positioned to appeal to the party’s African-American and Hispanic base as any white politician.

.. Kaine is from purple-blue Virginia, which borders purple-red North Carolina, and his announcement will take place in who-the-hell-knows-what-they-are-Florida. If Clinton wins these three states, Trump goes back to selling steaks.