Mike Pence, Tim Kaine sharpen debate attacks against Clinton, Trump

VP debate highlights

Tuesday night’s first and only vice presidential debate focused heavily on the presidential candidates, with the tone on the Longwood University debate stage sharp and a little heated. 

Republican running mate Mike Pence was a calm counterpoint to Donald Trump’s performance last week -- though he stayed calm by refusing to acknowledge any of Trump’s more shocking pronouncements, CBS News’ Nancy Cordes reports. In comparison, Tim Kaine is known as a happy warrior, though with his ticket leading, some Democrats wondered whether he had to attack quite as much as he did -- even if he did it with a smile. 

“I cannot believe that Governor Pence will defend the insult-driven campaign that Donald Trump has run,” Kaine said Tuesday night in Virginia. 

Hillary Clinton’s running mate went on offense within the debate’s first two minutes, repeatedly jumping in and pressing Pence to justify Trump’s most contentious comments

“When Donald Trump says Mexicans are rapists and criminals,” Kaine told Pence, “I can’t imagine how you could defend that.”

Pence’s strategy? Neither defend nor disavow, but deflect -- or deny.

“You’ve whipped out that Mexican thing again,” Pence later replied. “If Donald Trump had said all of the things you said in the way you said he said them, he still wouldn’t have a fraction of the insults that Hillary Clinton leveled when she said half of our supporters were a basket of deplorables.”

Kaine hit back, adding that at least his running mate has taken responsibility and apologized for comments like that.

“The very next day, she said, you know, I shouldn’t have said that,” Kaine said. “You will look in vain for Donald Trump ever taking responsibility for anybody and apologizing.”

The two clashed over foreign policy, with Kaine using Ronald Reagan’s words to attack the Republican nominee. 

“He said the problem with nuclear proliferation is that some fool or maniac could trigger a catastrophic event,” Kaine said. “And I think that’s who Gov. Pence’s running mate is, exactly who...Reagan warned us about.”

Pence’s reply: “Senator, that was even beneath you and Hillary Clinton. And that -- that’s pretty low.”

Pence went on to slam Clinton’s record. 

“In the wake of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, where she was the architect of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, we see entire portions of the world, particularly the wider Middle East, literally spinning out of control,” Pence said. 

Kaine fired back with a staunch defense of his candidate.

“When Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, Gov. Pence, did you know that Osama Bin Laden was alive?” he pointed out. “Did you know that we had 175,000 troops deployed in the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan?”

And with Trump’s taxes dominating the race this week, Kaine brought them up 10 times. 

“When Hillary said, you haven’t been paying taxes, [Trump] said ‘That makes me smart,’” Kaine said. “So it’s smart not to pay for our military? It’s smart not to pay for veterans?”

Pence had this to say in response: “Senator, do you take all the deductions that you’re entitled to? I do.” 

Joyful Republicans were quick to declare that Pence had won the debate while Democrats were more subdued, saying that simply Kaine had done his job and arguing that it’s the job of the vice presidential candidate to get a little feisty.