FARMVILLE, Va. — Senator Tim Kaine and Gov. Mike Pence repeatedly threw each other on the defensive over their running mates’ policies and character at the vice-presidential debate on Tuesday night, with Mr. Pence making little effort to directly rebut the near-constant attacks on Donald J. Trump’s fitness for the presidency.
Mr. Kaine was far more aggressive from the start, answering a question about his own qualifications with lengthy praise for Hillary Clinton and a declaration that “the thought of Donald Trump as commander in chief scares us to death.” Mr. Kaine, trained as a litigator, frequently used this tactic of turning questions about himself and Mrs. Clinton into opportunities to extol his running mate and assail Mr. Trump.
“I can’t imagine how Governor Pence can defend the insult-driven, me-first style of Donald Trump,” Mr. Kaine said after noting that Mr. Trump had once described Mexicans as “rapists” and questioned President Obama’s citizenship.
Mr. Pence, more formal and mild-mannered than his rival, seemed frustrated by the fusillade coming from Mr. Kaine. He often looked down and shook his head slightly in the face of the attacks on Mr. Trump, while Mr. Kaine tended to interrupt and talk over Mr. Pence.
But at other points he showed a deftness that Mr. Trump often lacked at his own debate last week. And he also offered voters a face of the Republican Party that was not overly dark or angry, as Mr. Trump has often been in this race.
“Senator, you and Hillary Clinton would know a lot about an insult-driven campaign,” Mr. Pence said. “The campaign of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine has been an avalanche of insults.”
From Mr. Trump’s proposals for cutting taxes and repealing the Affordable Care Act to “ending the war on coal,” a phrase he repeated several times, Mr. Pence tried to describe Mr. Trump’s views in ways intended to energize social conservatives, working-class white voters and other Republicans while delivering a measured performance that might appeal to undecided voters who are wary of Mr. Trump’s fiery and unpredictable temperament.
Neither candidate made significant errors through the night, meeting the baseline test of not doing any harm to the top of the ticket. Of the two, Mr. Kaine appeared far different from his usual self: He has been a more mellow debater in the past, a sign that the Clinton campaign trained him to be an attack dog on Tuesday.
Mr. Pence had his strongest moments during a lengthy exchange over abortion rights, as he excoriated Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Kaine for supporting laws that allowed what opponents call “partial-birth abortions.” He also argued that Mr. Kaine, a Catholic who personally opposes abortion, had bent his own views to support Mrs. Clinton’s positions on abortion.
We analyzed the only vice-presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence in real time.
“The very idea that a child that is almost born into the world could still have their life taken from them is just anathema to me,” Mr. Pence said.
But Mr. Kaine, who rarely if ever ceded a debating point through the 90-minute event, insisted that a candidate’s faith should not dictate policy. “The very last thing the government should do is punish women who make reproductive choices,” referring to a comment that Mr. Trump made on MSNBC months ago.
“Donald Trump and I would never support legislation that would punish women who made the heartbreaking choice,” Mr. Pence said. When Mr. Kaine reminded Mr. Pence of Mr. Trump’s statement to the contrary, Mr. Pence stammered.
Source: New York Times https://goo.gl/Jx9K2Z