Tim Kaine worries about “different standard” for Clinton vs. Trump in first debate

Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine previewed his running mate Hillary Clinton’s strategy heading into Monday night’s presidential debate, saying he and other Democrats are concerned about Clinton and GOP nominee Donald Trump being held to a “different standard.”

“I’m hoping there isn’t a different standard in the debate,” Kaine said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I think there’s been some worry that maybe up to now there’s been different standards applied. But that’s the great thing about the debate.”

But it should be “fair game” for either candidate—Clinton or Trump—to be challenged if they say something that’s not true Monday night, Kaine said. Trump, in particular, has been called out for repeatedly making statements on the campaign trail that turned out to be false.

“Look. It’s fair game for, for both candidates to be challenged either on things that they’ve said or things that they say tomorrow night,” he said. “And, again, I think the great virtue of these debates is you get 90 minutes to look at people and really see whether there’s depth, whether there’s substance, and whether there’s candor and truthfulness in what they say.”

Kaine named three areas where Trump could have trouble during the debate, beginning with policy specifics: a 90-minute debate is very different than short sound bites on an issue, he said.

“Hillary has been very specific about policy plans. We have a book out describing them,” Kaine said. “Donald Trump less so. But tomorrow is an opportunity to see whether Donald will be specific about what he proposes to do.”

He also previewed Clinton’s offense against Trump for Monday night, saying the many “unanswered questions” about Trump will be front and center.

“Donald Trump hasn’t released his tax returns. News of this past week shows a whole series of very serious questions about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia. And finally, there’s been news recently about very questionable, even illegal payments by the Trump Foundation. I think these unanswered questions are going to be on voters’ minds,” Kaine said.

Asked whether he’s given Clinton any advice about the debates, Kaine said they’ve discussed things “In the area of kind of tone, and style, and how to effectively make your positive case” when being attacked by your opponent.

“What I expect to see her do tomorrow is certainly defend herself from what Trump may say,” Kaine said said, “But at the end of the day, paint this positive vision that really is what’s animating her to run for president.”

Monday’s debate comes at a critical time in the campaign: polling has shown the race tightening both nationally and in key battleground states. Kaine suggested things are so close because the United States is a “closely divided nation.”

“You know, I’ve run all my races in Virginia. And to me, this seems like every race I’ve ever been in,” he said. “...So I think this thing’s going to be close right up to the end. We’ve got to make our case every day. The debates are a great way to do that.”

  • Emily Schultheis

    Emily Schultheis is a reporter/editor for CBS News Digital.