Each candidate sought to score points against the other’s running mate, with Kaine choosing an especially aggressive tone.
“[Trump] started his campaign with a speech where he called Mexicans rapists and criminals,” Kaine said, "and he has pursued the discredited and really outrageous lie that President Obama wasn't born in the United States.”
Kaine attacked Trump’s character, saying the Republican nominee "always puts himself first.” He added that he and his wife and son, "trust Hillary Clinton as president and commander-in-chief but the thought of Donald Trump as commander-in-chief scares us to death.”
Pence brushed off Kaine, saying that Kaine and Democratic
nominee Hillary Clinton "would know
a lot about an insult- driven campaign. It really is remarkable.”
Pence criticized Clinton’s record as secretary of state, saying that her policies have lead to a Middle Eastern situation that is “literally spinning out of control,” and “emboldened the aggression of Russia.”
Kaine jumped in, saying “You guys love Russia,” and these guys have praised Vladimir Putin as a great leader.”
After a great deal of crosstalk between the candidates, Pence said, “I must have hit a nerve here."
A CNN/ORC International poll of 472 registered voters conducted after the debate showed 48 percent of respondents believed Pence won, while 42 percent said Kaine did.
A focus group of 26 undecided Ohio voters conducted for CBS by pollster Frank Luntz resoundingly named Pence the victor. However, none of the participatants said the debate had clinched their vote for either candidate.
The candidate sparred over Trump’s tax returns, Hillary Clinton’s emails, and their respective records as governor of their home states.
But the discussion continually returned to the nominees at the top of the ticket, with Kaine, in a discussion of Trump’s foreign policy views, said Trump "loves dictators.”
"He's got kind of a personal Mount Rushmore,” Kaine said, listing "Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Moammar Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein.”
Pence said, “did you work on that one a long time? Because that had a lot of really creative lines in it.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, the Libertarian
Party’s vice-presidential nominee who was not invited to participate Tuesday
night, issued a statement in which he said the candidates had staged “good debate,” and “wish I had been there.”
Weld said, "Gov. Pence presented a bit more fiscal restraint. But, he enthusiastically embraced a social agenda that makes most Americans uncomfortable."
"Senator Kaine, on the other hand, rightly rejected the Trump social and immigration extremes, but is saddled with Ms. Clinton’s spending and tax plans,” Weld said.
Pence makes a campaign stop in Harrisonburg, Virginia Wednesday morning. Kaine will attend a rally in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will meet for their second debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri Sunday night.