The vice presidential debate between Republican Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceBiden, Trump tied in potential 2024 match-up: poll Nearly 80 percent of Republicans want to see Trump run in 2024: poll Why is Trump undermining his administration's historic China policies? MORE and Democrat Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineHarris stumps for McAuliffe in Virginia Democrats look for plan B on filibuster GOP blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill MORE is not expected to be a ratings blockbuster.
More than 84 million people tuned in to watch Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMeghan McCain: 'SNL' parodies made me feel like 'laughing stock of the country' Hill: Trump reelection would spur 'one constitutional crisis after another' Trump defends indicted GOP congressman MORE and Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHarris stumps for McAuliffe in Virginia On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — The Facebook Oversight Board is not pleased MORE last week, but Kaine and Pence may be lucky to draw a number equivalent to the 51.4 million for the 2012 debate between Vice President Biden and Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE (R-Wis.).
“The Pence/Kaine debate could be facing viewership lows not seen since the Cheney/Lieberman debate in 2000,” argued Chad Wilkinson, vice president of CapitalHQ, a New York-based public relations firm.
Republican Dick Cheney and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) drew just 29 million viewers that year.
“Unlike the unpredictable nature of the Trump/Clinton debate that drove big numbers, this will be a predictable wonk fest on policy,” Wilkinson said.
“Only the most inside-the-beltway followers will tune in,” he concludes. “I predict 29–34 million will watch.”
Other political observers are more optimistic for Pence and Kaine.
“I expect a slightly higher audience than 2012 because of more attention to this election,” said Jessica Tarlov, a Democrat and senior strategist at New York-based Schoen Consulting.
“The audience will find it more boring than Trump versus Clinton, but with two disliked candidates they are likely going to be looking at VP candidates as more important than usual.”
The debate will be going up against the American League Wild Card playoff game between the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, but baseball is not likely to drive too many viewers away from the broadcast.
Networks carrying the debate include ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX-TV, Fox News, Fox Business, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Bloomberg, PBS, C-SPAN, Telemundo and Univision, along with a host of streaming options.
Many eyes will be on the debate’s moderator, CBS News correspondent and CBSN anchor Elaine Quijano.
Quijano, who is Filipino-American, is the first Asian-American journalist to moderate a national debate. She’s also the first anchor of a digital network to host a debate, and at 42 is the youngest moderator in nearly 30 years.
ABC’s Judy Woodruff holds the record for hosting a 1988 debate at the age of 41.
Vice presidential debates have had memorable moments and high ratings, from former Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen’s verbal takedown of Republican Dan Quayle in 1988 to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s folksy greeting to Biden in 2008, when she asked if it was OK if she called the Delaware senator “Joe.”
Palin-Biden is also the ratings exception for vice presidential debates. It drew 69.9 million viewers — nearly 7 million viewers more than the highest-rated presidential debate from that cycle.
Everyone knew who Palin was in that cycle, however.
In 2016, many Americans would have trouble picking Kaine or Pence from a crowd.
A survey conducted by ABC News and Social Science Research Solutions found that more than 40 percent of Americans can't name the vice presidential nominee of either major party.
At the same time, Gallup has found that more people are paying very close attention to national politics this year, which could bring eyeballs to Pence-Kaine.
Still, Harlin Hill, a former Democratic consultant supporting Donald Trump, says there isn't nearly as much anticipation going into this year's vice presidential matchup.
“Remember in 2012, the VPs followed Obama's truly lackluster performance in the first presidential debate," says Hill. “The incumbent ticket looked weak after polls showed Romney crushing Obama in the first debate, so Biden had a lot of pressure on him to perform."
“The dynamic is much less suspenseful this year,” he said.
Vice presidential debates have been held every year since 1976, with the exception of 1980.
Here are the ratings year by year:
Mondale-Dole, 1976: 43.2 million
1980: None scheduled
Bush-Ferraro, 1984: 56.7 million
Quayle-Bentsen, 1988: 50 million
Quayle-Stockdale-Gore, 1992: 51.2 million
Gore-Kemp, 1996: 26.6 million
Cheney-Lieberman, 2000: 29.1 million
Cheney-Edwards, 2004: 43.6 million
Biden-Palin, 2008: 69,9 million
Biden-Ryan, 2012: 51.4 million
--This report was updated on Oct. 5 at 11:42 a.m.