Political Insider

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Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton loom large over vice presidential debate


 

FARMVILLE, Va. Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine on Tuesday largely aimed their fire not at one another during this year’s first and only vice presidential debate, but at the opposing side’s larger-than-life presidential nominees.

Even though Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were not on stage or even in the building here at Longwood University, they were consistently overshadowing their running mates throughout the duration of the 90-minute debate.

The Pence-Kaine matchup lacked the spectacularity of the first presidential debate, which drew a record 84 million viewers last week, according to Nielsen. But it took many cues from that first battle, including a multitude of personal attacks and a share of messy moments, with both candidates talking over one another and moderator Elaine Quijano of CBS News.

The lion’s share of those jabs were pointed upward.

Kaine, Virginia’s junior U.S. senator, took a particularly aggressive posture early on in the evening, slamming Trump for his temperament amid a recent public feud with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. He said Trump’s actions, which included a 3 a.m. Twitter rant, were evidence of why he would make a poor commander in chief.

“Donald Trump can’t start a Twitter war with Miss Universe without shooting himself in the foot,” Kaine quipped before turning to Pence, who he said was trying to defend the indefensible.

The Indiana governor’s demeanor was calmer and more contemplative, and Pence was often forced to sit back as Kaine spoke over him.

A politician who made a name for himself in Indiana by disavowing negative campaigning, Pence shot back at Kaine’s comments that Trump has run a negative campaign by invoking a red meat rallying cry for Republicans.

“This ‘insult-driven campaign,’ ” Pence said, referring to Kaine’s wording about the Trump campaign, “that’s small potatoes compared to Hillary Clinton calling half of Donald Trump’s supporters a basket of deplorables.”

More: Kaine and Pence debate, but spotlight on Clinton and Trump

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.