(CBS Seattle/ AP) In the first and only vice presidential debate, running mates Mike Pence and Tim Kaine will face off 6 p.m. Tuesday night. Not to undermine the importance of their roles in the presidential race, Americans will begin to assess the men who could be next in line for the presidency.

Heading into the debate, their agendas differ from one another. While Virgina Sen. Kaine will build on Hillary Clinton’s recent burst of momentum, while former Indiana Gov. Pence needs to use this moment to shift the campaign conversation away from Trump’s self-inflicted wounds.

This week it came to light Trump suffered more than $900 million in losses in 1995 that could have allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes for as many as 18 years, according to records obtained by The New York Times.

“His goal in this vice presidential debate is to continue to take the high road, but also take every opportunity he can to not get sidetracked on issues that aren’t important,” said Alice Stewart, who advised Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign.

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This single debate for the running mates will be a more low-key affair than the trio of presidential showdowns. That’s particularly true in an election where the candidates at the top of the ticket are such outsized figures who have been in the public eye for decades.

Kaine is a friendly and earnest political veteran whose easygoing demeanor is similar to Pence. He’s tried to serve as a validator of Clinton’s character, eager to offset the questions many Americans have about her honesty and trustworthiness.

Part of his mission Tuesday night will be trying to make Pence own Trump’s divisive statements and policy proposals.

“When it comes to the issues, it’s hard to tell them apart,” Clinton’s campaign said of Pence and Trump in a video released ahead of the debate. “From the alt-right racists supporting their ticket to women’s health to immigration to LGBT equality to global warming to the minimum wage, it’s no wonder that Donald Trump picked Mike Pence.”

Since joining Trump’s ticket in July, Pence has often been tasked with easing the anxieties of conservatives who worry about the Republican nominee’s sometimes-fluctuating political ideology.

“There’s Pence speak and there’s Trump speak — Mike Pence using the language of conservative orthodoxy and Donald Trump using the language of a brash businessman,” said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. Julie Pace, AP White House Correspondent. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Poll courtesy of CBS News. This poll was conducted by telephone September 28-October 2, 2016 among a random sample of 1,501 adults nationwide, including 1,217 registered voters. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA.


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