Vice presidential hopefuls trade jabs — about Clinton and Trump

SHARE Vice presidential hopefuls trade jabs — about Clinton and Trump

Republican candidate for Vice President Mike Pence (R) and Democratic candidate for Vice President Tim Kaine speak during the vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia on October 4, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMADJEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

It’s touted as the first and only televised debate between the vice presidential picks, but Tuesday night’s showdown between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence found the two men on the offense — and defense — about their running mates.

From the get go, Kaine sought to paint Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as the man who “always puts himself first” and Kaine’s running mate, Democrat Hillary Clinton, as someone whose track record proves she’s got the experience to become president.

“He built a business career, in the words of one of his own campaign staffers, ‘off the backs of the little guy,’” the Virginia senator said of Trump. “And as a candidate, he started his campaign with a speech where he called Mexicans rapists and criminals, and he has pursued the discredited and really outrageous lie that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States.”

Pence got in his own talking points about Clinton, reminding viewers of her email scandal twice, and the Clinton Foundation allegedly accepting “millions of dollars” in contributions from foreign governments.

There was a fair share of interruptions and talking over one another in the debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., but most of the quibbles were about the absent tops of the tickets.

Pence didn’t try to explain Trump or some of his most controversial comments, but instead focused on Clinton’s role as secretary of state. The Indiana governor used some of his prime time spotlight to blame Clinton for allowing portions of the Middle East to spin out of control.

“The situation we’re watching hour by hour in Syria today is the result of the failed foreign policy and the weak foreign policy that Hillary Clinton helped lead in this administration and create,” Pence said, adding she also worsened aggression of Russia.

Kaine chimed in: “You guys love Russia.”

“You both have said — you both have said Vladimir Putin is a better leader than the president,” Kaine said.

Putin was brought up several times, with Kaine repeatedly reminding viewers that Trump has made favorable comments about the leader: “If you don’t know the difference between dictatorship and leadership, you need to go back to a fifth grade civics class,” Kaine said.

Trying to distance himself from some of Trump’s comments, Pence said that Russia’s politics is full of cronyism, and Putin is a “small and bullying leader.”

“The small and bullying leader of Russia is not dictating terms to the United States,” Pence said. “We have got to be able to lean into this with strong, broad-shouldered American leadership.”

Kaine accused Trump of idolizing dictators.

“He loves dictators. He’s got kind of a personal Mount Rushmore: Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Moammar Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein.”

For Pence, it was also a night of trying to reassure voters that Trump has the temperament to be president — as Kaine repeatedly brought up Trump comments that have drawn ire, including insults to women and the billionaire’s criticisms of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.

“You can’t have someone at the top who demeans every group that he talks about, and I just cannot believe that Gov. Pence would defend the insult-driven campaign that Donald Trump has run,” Kaine said, as he continuously tried to get Pence to discuss Trump’s most salacious comments.

But Pence tried to turn the tables: “Ours is an insult-drive campaign?”

Pence pointed out that Clinton called “half” of Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables.”

Throughout the evening, Kaine also attempted to rekindle arguments Clinton made in last week’s presidential debates. Kaine asked Pence why Trump hasn’t released his tax returns, reiterating that Trump said it made him “smart” that he hasn’t paid federal taxes.

“So it’s smart not to pay for our military. It’s smart not to pay for veterans. It’s smart not to pay for teachers. And I guess all of us who do pay for those things, I guess we’re stupid,” Kaine said.

“Donald Trump must give the American public his tax returns to show that he’s qualified to be president,” Kaine urged.

Pence said Trump’s release of his financial disclosure shows that he once struggled 20 years ago. He touted him as a successful businessman and someone who knows the “tax code.”

“His tax returns — his tax returns showed he went through a very difficult time, but he used the tax code just the way it’s supposed to be used. And he did it brilliantly,” Pence said.

Earlier in the debate, moderator Elaine Quijano tried to halt the numerous interruptions with a little bit of reason: “The people at home cannot understand either one of you when you speak over each other.”

Clinton and Trump will face one another once again on Sunday night in St. Louis for the second of three presidential debates.

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