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Trump's taxes likely to be a topic of tonight's VP debate

Will taxes, specifically, Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump's still officially secret federal filings dominate tonight's vice presidential debate?

Kaine and Clinton_Clinton campaign website2 (2)

It's showdown time tonight for Sen. Tim Kaine, above right, the Democrats' vice president choice,
and Gov. Mike Pence, below right, who is the Republican veep candidate.

Pence and Trump_Mike Pence Twitter account banner


Debate directions for both VP candidates: You can be sure that Sen. Tim Kaine, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's running mate, will try to make it an issue. Kaine and the former secretary of state have released years of their federal and state filings.

UPDATE, 9:37 p.m. ET: As expected, Kaine Hits Back at Pence on Trump Taxes.

Gov. Mike Pence, however, will likely try to downplay recent reports that the man who tapped him as the GOP veep candidate might not have paid Uncle Sam a cent of taxes for 18 years. Pence likely will point to his release of his taxes (like Kaine, 10 years' worth) and repeat Trump's "under audit" excuse explanation.

One commentator is even suggesting that Pence play that up and even challenge Trump to release at least some, audit-cleared 1040s. Like that's going to happen!

One thing is sure. An effective tax attack by Kaine or a solid defense/deflection by Pence could set the stage for how the next presidential debate -- mark your calendars: it's Sunday, Oct. 9 -- and possibly the final weeks of the run for the White House go.

Other non-tax things to watch for, and yes, they do exist, will be Kaine's ability to humanize Clinton and Pence's effort to make Trump seem a bit less outrageous.

Remembering prior VP debate moments: The debate is expected to get OK, but not record-breaking ratings. Still folks will likely watch on the off chance we'll get a gem like "You're no Jack Kennedy" or "Why am I here?"

This Wall Street Journal video offers some top moments in VP debate history.

During the 2012 election, the encounter between now Vice President Joe and then GOP VP nominee and current House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan pulled in 51.4 million viewers. It was the third-highest total ever for a vice presidential debate, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Second place goes to the first time a woman was on a major party ticket, the 1984 debate between Republican George H.W. Bush, who later would go on to occupy the Oval Office but then was Ronald Reagan's veep pick, and the late Geraldine Ferraro, who was tapped to round out the Democratic ticket led by Walter Mondale.

The VP debate ratings winner is the 2008 match-up between former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain's choice on the GOP side, and Biden. The verbal sparring of those two caught the attention of a record 70 million viewers.

How to watch tonight's VP debate: CBS News reporter Elaine Quijano will moderate the debate, which will begin at 9 p.m. ET and run, commercial free, for 90 minutes on not only CBS, but also on fellow broadcast channels ABC, NBC and Fox.

On the cable dial, you can find it on C-SPAN, CNN, Fox News, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and Spanish-language networks Telemundo and Univision.

If you're away from a TV set, you can stream the debate on Twitter. Trump says he'll be there offering live 140-character commentary.

YouTube will carry live streams of many of the television broadcasts.

ABC News has partnered with Facebook to stream tonight's debate on that social media platform.

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