The Vice Presidential Debate – Who and Why?

WHNT News 19 -- If you have opened your eyes and ears at any point in 2016, you have seen or heard the names "Donald Trump" and "Hillary Clinton," and you know that they are both in the running to become the next President of the United States.

According to the most recent CNN/ORC poll, Clinton's debate performance last week  helped her expand her lead over Trump among likely voters in the presidential election set for Nov. 8.

Tonight, though, is the one and only vice presidential debate. The Vice President of the United States is one of the most prestigious positions in politics, but it is also one of the least defined. The president and the vice president, together, ultimately decide what role the vice president will play. Tonight is the only chance this election's major party vice presidential candidates will  have to explain why they and their running mate, can change the country for the better.

Who are the vice presidential candidates, and why were they selected?

Mike Pence - Donald Trump's running mate 

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (C) and running mate Mike Pence (L) stand as pastor Darrell Scott (R) speaks during the Midwest Vision and Values Pastors and Leadership Conference at the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio on September 21, 2016. / AFP / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump  and running mate Mike Pence stand as pastor Darrell Scott speaks during the Midwest Vision and Values Pastors and Leadership Conference at the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio on September 21, 2016. (Photo credit  MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Mike Pence is the 50th governor of the state of Indiana. He considers himself a social conservative. He had originally endorsed Ted Cruz for president.

Trump said he chose the governor as his running mate to unify the Republican Party, but neither Trump nor Pence has spelled out how Pence would function in a Trump administration. He will have an opportunity to clarify that tonight.

Tim Kaine - Hillary Clinton's running mate

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 05: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine greet supporters during a campaign rally at Luke Easter Park on September 5, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Clinton is kicking off a Labor Day campaign swing to Ohio and Iowa on a new campaign plane large enough to accommodate her traveling press corp. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential nominee  Hillary Clinton and Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine greet supporters during a campaign rally at Luke Easter Park on September 5, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Tim Kaine is currently serving as the current junior U.S. Senator from Virginia. He was elected to the Senate in 2012. He graduated from Harvard Law School.

The Clinton campaign has praised Kaine on his steady presence in the national spotlight and logical manner with the media. The campaign expects his consistency to contrast with the showmanship of Donald Trump.

Don't let Pence and Kaine's presence on the stage fool you. They are actually not even the main focus of tonight's debate.

Think of them more as stand-ins for their presidential running mates. As per any debate, the candidates may periodically engage in going over each other's track records, but will most likely focus on arguing why their running mate is the best choice for president. John Feehery, a Republican strategist who is not working for either campaign, said that Kaine is expected to take jabs at Trump's unreliability and explosive character, while Pence will press into the matter of Clinton not having the capability of changing the country the way that Trump can.

Debate details

Time: 8 p.m. CT  ( 9 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. MT / 6 p.m. PT)
Moderator: Elaine Quijano, Anchor, CBSN and Correspondent, CBS News
Location: Longwood University, Farmville, VA

The vice presidential debate will be divided into nine segments of approximately 10 minutes each. The moderator will ask an opening question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.

Watch the debate live on WHNT News 19 or WHNT.com