Ron Elving

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had one job in his third and final debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton: break out.

He needed to break out from the narrative that is fast enveloping his campaign — the way evening overtakes the late afternoon.

He needed a breakout performance showing himself to be disciplined and knowledgeable enough to be president.

Traditionally, candidates do not complain about an election being rigged until they have actually lost. But 2016 is not a traditional year, and Donald Trump is no traditional candidate.

Allegations of media conspiracy, partisan collusion and Election Day shenanigans have become a staple of Trump's rally speeches and Twitter blasts. In his widely quoted tweet on Sunday, he was characteristically blunt: "The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary — but also at many polling places — SAD."

The second debate between presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton promised a great deal and managed to deliver on much of it. But those expecting either to see Trump knocked out of the race or to see him dramatically reverse the current campaign momentum went away disappointed.

It could be said this meeting had the highest stakes ever for any single debate, even as it set new lows for the level of personal attacks.

Little has gone as expected in this extraordinary presidential cycle, so we should have known Tuesday's vice presidential debate would have a twist or two in it, too.

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence each represented three clients in their 90-minute debate from Farmville, Va. The two former attorneys pleaded the case for their respective principals (Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump), to be sure, but also for their respective parties and for themselves.

Amid the clamor of the battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, two much lower-key fellows who are also nominees for national office will take the stage Tuesday night in rural Virginia and try to be heard.

Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence will talk about policy and their competing visions for America. They will almost surely offer more substance on issues than we heard in the first debate between the presidential nominees a week earlier.

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