Do vice presidential debates influence elections?

The latest CBS News poll finds only 14 percent of registered voters say a presidential candidate’s running mate has a great deal of influence on their vote, but seven out of 10 voters say they plan to tune in Tuesday night for the debate between Gov. Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Kaine at Longwood University in Virginia. 

In this election, the vice presidential candidates remain largely unknown to voters. But the controversies involving Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, two of the least-liked candidates in history, have both Pence and Kaine playing defense, reports CBS News correspondent Chip Reid.

Looking back in VP debate history, Admiral James Stockdale was on a third-party ticket when he stood on the vice presidential debate stage in 1992 -- and he faced a common challenge: becoming known to a national audience. 

“Who am I? Why am I here?” Stockdale said to laughter and applause.

“I’m a B-list Republican celebrity, you know,” Pence said in September at a rally last month in York, Pennsylvania.

“For many of you, this is the first time you’ve even heard my name,” Kaine said, laughing, in Miami, Florida, in July.

Despite years serving in public office, a new CBS News poll shows a majority of registered voters don’t know enough about Pence or Kaine to have an opinion about them.

“What are you expecting from this vice presidential debate?” Reid asked John Sides, who teaches political science at George Washington University.

“You’re expecting something probably with more policy, more substance, fewer fireworks than the first presidential debate,” Sides said.

“Tim Kaine certainly does not want to overshadow Hillary Clinton, even if he could. And on the other side, I just don’t think there is anybody that could overshadow Donald Trump as their vice presidential nominee,” Side added.  

Then-Vice President George H. W. Bush tried to show he was ready to be commander-in-chief during the 1984 VP debate against Democratic Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro.

“Let me help you with the difference, Ms. Ferraro, between Iran and the embassy in Lebanon,” Bush said.

But Ferraro turned it against him.

“I almost resent, Vice President Bush, your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy,” she responded.

One of the most famous moments came during the 1988 VP debate, Side said.

“I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency,” Dan Quayle said.

“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy,” Lloyd Bentson said to cheers and applause.

“Bentson just devastated Dan Quayle, but Dan Quayle became Vice President,” Reid pointed out.

“No, it’s a good example of the ways in which presidential election outcomes hinge on many other factors than what the running mates themselves say to each other,” Side said.

Pence and Kaine were both safe picks for their candidates. Both men have served as governor and have emphasized their ability to step in and serve if needed.

Throughout U.S. history, nine vice presidents have moved into the Oval Office due to the death or resignation of a president.