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Trump's number two scores points as Vice-Presidential nominees square off

“The thought of Donald Trump as commander in chief scares us to death,” Kaine said.

Image: Andrew Gombert

VICE PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS Tim Kaine and Mike Pence launched into their only debate of the campaign last night, immediately clashing on the reputations, experiences and policies of their bosses chasing the White House.

Democrat Kaine and Republican Pence squared off to highlight their capabilities as the men who could be a heartbeat away from the presidency, but essentially they were on stage fighting a proxy war for their running mates five weeks before election day on 8 November.

Kaine, a US senator from Virginia, promoted himself as a deeply experienced local, state and national politician who would be the “right hand person” for Clinton, whom he described as trustworthy and more than capable in the role of commander in chief.

“The thought of Donald Trump as commander in chief scares us to death,” Kaine said.

“I can’t imagine how Governor Pence can defend the insult-driven, selfish, me-first style of Donald Trump,” Kaine said, vocalising his primary strategy of forcing Pence to on to the back foot about the brash Republican billionaire at every turn.

An imperturbable Pence, the governor of Indiana and a Christian conservative, calmly shot back.

“You would know a lot about an insult-driven campaign,” he said, highlighting Clinton’s relentless criticism of Trump and how she painted half of her Republican rival’s supporters as “deplorables.”

“We see entire portions of the world, particularly the wider Middle East, spinning out of control. The situation we’re watching hour by hour in Syria today is the result of the weak foreign policy that Hillary Clinton helped lead in this administration and create.”

For many Americans, it will be their first prolonged exposure to the men who would be next in line for the presidency if their side wins on 8 November.

Both sought to convince undecided voters that their bosses are worthy of the Oval Office.

‘Shooting himself in the foot’

Campaign 2016 VP Debate Source: Joe Raedle

Pence is as modest and polite in style as Trump is brash and insulting, while Kaine, also with a modest style on Capitol Hill, appeared to take a more aggressive stance than Pence in attacking the rival camp.

Polls show Clinton gaining in the wake of a punishing week for her Republican rival Trump, who was hammered by controversies over his taxes and his treatment of women.

Kaine sought to drill down on those issues, demanding Trump release his tax returns, and appearing to try to bait Trump about his impulsive habit of tweeting missteps during the campaign.

“Donald Trump can’t start a Twitter war with Miss Universe without shooting himself in the foot,” Kaine said, referring to Trump’s rants against Alicia Machado, a beauty queen whom he called “Miss Piggy” when she gained weight after winning her crown.

The two men repeatedly talked over each over as they clashed about Trump’s failure to release his tax records, social security, how to handle an aggressive Russia, and the prospect of mounting debt, forcing moderator Elaine Quijano to intervene and insist they cut it out.

Campaign 2016 VP Debate Source: David Goldman

Kaine, 58, and Pence, 57, are about 10 years younger than the presidential nominees. They each are fathers of a son serving in the US military, and they are seen as more engaged with their faith than Clinton and Trump.

Weighing heavily against the New York billionaire are a mediocre performance in his first debate with Clinton, followed by revelations of a $916 million loss in 1995 that may have meant he paid no taxes for several years, and criticism of his demeaning treatment of Machado.

Pence, who spent a dozen years in Congress, is known for his discipline. He has prepared intensively for the debate, unlike Trump, who did little to practice for his 26 September encounter with Clinton.

© AFP 2016

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