What you need to know about Tim Kaine and Mike Pence

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File photo of Tim Kaine by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

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JUDY WOODRUFF: From the Senate to the vice presidential race.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine may not be as well-known or as polarizing as the candidates at the top of the ticket. In fact, polls show more than one-third of registered voters don’t know enough about either of them to form an opinion, this despite the fact that, if Trump wins, he would be the oldest newly elected president to take office, while Clinton would be the second oldest.

Americans will have a chance to compare the two running mates when they face off on the debate stage tomorrow night in Virginia.

We take a look now at how these two competitors got to where they are today.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), Vice Presidential Nominee: Are we going to let him get away with it?


SEN. TIM KAINE: Absolutely not. We can’t.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, they represent polar opposites of the political spectrum.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), Vice Presidential Nominee: I know that I know we will make America great again.


JUDY WOODRUFF: But long before they were vying to be the nation’s second in command, Mike Pence and Tim Kaine began their path to politics under strikingly similar circumstances.

Both were sons of the Midwest, in Pence’s case, Columbus, Indiana, raised by a gas station owner and a homemaker, in a large Irish-Catholic family.

GOV. MIKE PENCE: I’m really just a small-town boy who grew up in Southern Indiana with a big family and a cornfield in the backyard.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Kaine grew up in Kansas city, Missouri, the elder of two brothers, his father a metalworker, his mother a teacher.

SEN. TIM KAINE: I wanted to be a man for others, somebody who fought for the rights of others, had others’ back, would stand up for others, especially if others wouldn’t.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Catholic Church played an integral role in both men’s early lives. The Jesuit-educated Kaine came from a family that he says cared very much about the church, and very little about politics.

Jeff Schapiro has covered Kaine for The Richmond Times-Dispatch for more than a decade.

JEFF SCHAPIRO, The Richmond-Times Dispatch: I think the Jesuit connection is important for several reasons, most notably the idea of liberation theology, that faith manifests itself in political action.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Like Kaine, Pence was a Catholic school kid, serving as an altar boy, sometimes seven days a week. The future GOP governor also had an early interest in politics, Democratic politics, says Maureen Groppe of The Indianapolis Star.

MAUREEN GROPPE, The Indianapolis Star: He was a youth coordinator for the Democratic Party in his county at one point. He revered the Kennedys. He had a bust of JFK. He voted for Carter, but his politics started to change in college.

He said Ronald Reagan inspired him to become a Republican. He thought that Reagan embodied the ideals of America that he was raised to believe in.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Both men went on to study law. But Kaine took a detour to Honduras to work with a Jesuit mission.

JEFF SCHAPIRO: Then, when he indicated to the Jesuits present there that he was a law student, he was told that that was not necessarily a skill that would be useful in a Third World country. And he spent a year teaching crafts, metalwork, carpentry to youngsters at this missionary.

SEN. TIM KAINE: And it convinced me that we have got to advance opportunity and equality for everybody, no matter where they come from, how much money they have, what they look like, what accent they have, or who they love.


JUDY WOODRUFF: After law school, the newly wed Kaine settled in Richmond, Virginia, to be close to his wife’s family and launch his legal career. Pence did the same in his home state, Indiana, and mulled his next step.

MAUREEN GROPPE: When he was thinking about what he wanted to do with his life, he thought about his gifts, his talents, and he thought he had a gift for articulation for advocacy. And he wanted to try and use that in some way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: After two failed runs for Congress in the ’80s, that gift led Pence to start his own radio talk show.

GOV. MIKE PENCE: And I’m supposed to be a cynic. I’m supposed to not appropriate you people.

MAUREEN GROPPE: He said that his show was Rush Limbaugh on decaf. And he also likes to say that he’s a conservative, but he’s not in a bad mood about it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Also during this time, Pence moved away from his Catholic upbringing, joining an evangelical Christian church in Indianapolis.

In 2000, Pence ran for Congress again. The third time was the charm. He quickly earned a reputation as a champion for conservative causes, leading the fight to defund Planned Parenthood.

GOV. MIKE PENCE: Millions of pro-life Americans shouldn’t be asked to fund the leading abortion provider in the United States.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But he didn’t always fall in line with the Republican Party’s leadership, fighting against President Bush’s signature education program and expansion of Medicaid.

GOV. MIKE PENCE: I rise on behalf of the fringe in America.

JUDY WOODRUFF: As Pence built his Washington resume, Kaine was launching himself into Virginia politics. First serving on city council, Kaine went on to become the first white mayor of Richmond, a majority-black city, in nearly a decade.

JEFF SCHAPIRO: His relationship with African-Americans has been enduring. And it manifests itself not just in politics, but in faith. He and Anne Holton attend a majority-black African-American Roman Catholic parish.

JUDY WOODRUFF: He went on to serve as lieutenant governor under then governor and now fellow Senator Mark Warner, and was next elected governor himself.

For Kaine, the 2008 financial collapse and the nation’s worst mass shooting, 32 dead at Virginia Tech University, would consume his attention.

SEN. TIM KAINE: As you wrestle with your sadness, as you wrestle with your own feelings of anger or confusion, as you wrestle with the despair, do not let hold of that spirit of the community that makes Virginia Tech such a special place. Do not lose hold of that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Although Governor Kaine was unable to convince a Republican legislature to adopt stricter background checks following the shooting, he did close a loophole that had permitted the mentally ill to purchase guns.

SEN. TIM KAINE: I have always believed that, however you serve, what matters is whether you actually deliver results for people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Schapiro says these experiences helped Kaine hone his political skills.

JEFF SCHAPIRO: He can be very calculated. He can be very cagey. He has an acute sense of the jugular.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Kaine’s political star continued to rise. He helped Barack Obama win Virginia in 2008, was named national party chair the next year, and in 2012 ran for the Senate, and won easily.

As Kaine entered Congress, Mike Pence gave up his House seat to run for governor of Indiana. His tenure has been rocky at times. In 2015, Pence signed and defended a controversial law that critics charged would let businesses discriminate against gays and lesbians.

MAUREEN GROPPE: The business community in Indiana really rose up against it. And then, when he agreed to make changes to the law, that satisfied neither side. The conservatives thought he had capitulated and the other side thought that the changes didn’t go far enough.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Pence did earn praise from conservatives for implementing significant tax cuts and signing a stricter state abortion law.

Donald Trump tapped Pence to be his running mate just as he was mounting a tough reelection bid in Indiana.

Groppe says Pence is motivated by aspirations for higher office, but also by his Christian faith.

MAUREEN GROPPE: It’s a central part of his life, and I think he also sees it as a reason why — connected to what he’s doing in public office. He said he sees public service as a calling.

GOV. MIKE PENCE: I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.


JUDY WOODRUFF: In a similar vein, Schapiro says Kaine is driven by a belief that politics can be faith in action.

JEFF SCHAPIRO: Faith becomes sort of the broad umbrella under which Kaine operates. I don’t know that it’s the only thing. This is politics and government as opportunities for change, as instruments for good. This is what interests and motivates Kaine.


*Editor’s note: Gov. Mike Pence is the eldest of three brothers not two. 

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