FARMVILLE, Va. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine and Republican nominee Mike Pence traded barbs and frequently talked over each other Tuesday evening, as they sat side by side at a table for their only debate.
The 90-minute face-off between Kaine and Pence began at 9 p.m. at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. CBS News’ Elaine Quijano served as moderator.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, Kaine and Pence are both in their late 50s, and both have sons serving in the Marines. But their similarities took a back seat in the debate.
Quijano began by asking Kaine and Pence how each was qualified to take over as president, should tragedy strike.
Kaine answered that he was proud to serve with Clinton, who said the test of her administration would be “not the signing of a bill or the passage of the bill, it will be whether we can make somebody’s life better.”
“My primary role is to be Hillary Clinton’s right-hand person and strong supporter as she puts together the most historic administration possible,” Kaine said.
Pence said America’s place in the world has been declining for several years, with “economies stifled by more taxes and regulations, a war on coal, and a failing health care system… the American people know that we need to make a change.”
He said if he had to become president in the event of a tragedy, he would bring his experience of growing up in small-town Indiana, and a lifetime serving the country.
Afterward, it did not take long for the two candidates to begin exchanging snipes. When Quijano noted that many do not think Clinton is trustworthy, Kaine countered that Clinton always puts others first.
“It’s always been putting others first, and that’s a sharp contrast with Donald Trump,” Kaine said. “Donald Trump puts himself first.”
Pence in turn claimed that Clinton was to blame for numerous failures in foreign policy and overseas crises as Secretary of State.
“At a time of the greatest challenge of this nation, here we’ve weakened America’s place in the world, stifled America’s economy,” Pence said.
Pence added that Trump had exhibited “extraordinary business acumen.”
“And paid few taxes and lost a billion dollars a year,” Kaine interjected, referring to The New York Times report alleging that Trump claimed a nearly $916 million loss in 1995 on his tax returns and avoided taxes.
Pence later defended Trump’s handling of his past taxes, saying the Republican nominee was doing what he had to as a businessman.
“This is probably the difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Sen. Kaine. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Kaine – and God bless you for it – career public servants, that’s great,” Pence said. “Donald Trump is a businessman, not a career politician. He actually built a business.”
But Kaine complained that Trump “won’t even release his tax returns.”
On economic policy, Kaine said Trump and Pence favored doing away with the federal minimum wage. But Pence said the economy would suffer with more taxes, and claimed there were millions more people living in poverty today compared with when President Barack Obama “with Hillary Clinton at his side” took office.
Quijano went on to ask about law enforcement and race relations, and how to improve relations between communities and police. Kaine said the key would be a focus on community policing so as to bring officers and the communities they serve together.
“The way you make communities safer, and the way you make police safer, is through community policing. You heal the bonds between the community and the police force – bonds of understanding – and then when people feel comfortable in the communities, the gap between the police and the communities narrows,” Kaine said.
He also called mental health reform and greater restrictions to prevent guns ending up in the wrong hands.
He said other law enforcement policies, such as “overly aggressive, more militarized mode,” the stop and frisk policy would not be helpful.
Pence agreed that community policing would be beneficial, but he said the “badmouthing” of and the impulse to “accuse law enforcement of implicit bias or institutional racism” has “really got to stop.”
Pence noted that the officer who shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott in an incident that caused major protests in Charlotte was himself African-American, and thus that shooting could not be considered an example of “implicit bias” while Clinton had said it was.
Kaine countered that if there is a fear of even discussing implicit bias among police forces, the problem will never be solved.
Kaine also called attention to several past remarks Trump has made, including saying that Mexican immigrants were “bringing crime” and were “rapists,” calling women “slobs, pigs, dogs, disgusting,” and saying, “I like people who weren’t captured” when talking about fellow Republican Sen. John McCain’s war record, among others.
“If you want a society where people are respected and respect laws, you can’t have somebody at the top who demeans everybody who he talks about,” Kaine said.
Pence fired back that Clinton had also launched “insults,” as she recently said “half of our supporters were a basket of deplorables. She said they were irredeemable; they were not Americans.”
Kaine said Clinton had conceded that she should not have made the remark, while “you’ll look in vain” to find a time when Trump had apologized for one of his remarks.
On the issue of terrorism, Kaine said Clinton has a specific plan in mind for defeating ISIS in the Middle East, and he said Trump does not.
“Donald Trump can’t start a Twitter war with Miss Universe without shooting himself in the foot,” Kaine said.
He accused Trump of favoring the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and of being fond of dictators.
“He’s got kind of a personal Mount Rushmore – Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Moammar Ghaddafi, and Saddam Hussein,” Kaine said.
Pence in turn accused the Obama administration, and specifically Clinton, of setting the stage for the rise of ISIS.
“Because Hillary Clinton failed to renegotiate the status of forces agreement that would have allowed some American troops to remain in Iraq… ISIS was able to be literally conjured up out of the desert,” Pence said.
On the issue of immigration, Kaine accused Trump and Pence of calling for mass deportation rather than reform, and also accused them of favoring discrimination.
“Hillary and I would do immigration enforcement and we’ll vet refugees based on whether they’re dangerous or not,” Kaine said.
Pence said he and Trump favored ending the placement of Syrian refugees, and Kaine in turn said Trump and Pence went by a policy claiming that “all Mexicans are bad” and Muslims should be kept out.
Kaine also took issue with Pence’s claim that Trump will rebuild the military in the issue of keeping America safe.
“No he won’t. Donald Trump is avoiding paying taxes,” Kaine said. He noted that the New York Times report this past weekend said Trump may not have paid federal taxes for up to 18 years beginning in 1995.
Kaine said those years included the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, after which many enlisted to fight terrorism. He said Clinton went to Washington, D.C. to secure funding for the troops, while he claimed Trump was engaged in “a fight to avoid paying taxes so he wouldn’t support the fight against terror.”
Kaine later added that Trump’s idea that more nations should get nuclear weapons would make the Middle East far more dangerous.
“Ronald Reagan said something really interesting about nuclear proliferation back in the 1980s. He said the problem with nuclear proliferation is that some fool or maniac could trigger a catastrophic event, and I think that’s who Governor Pence’s running mate is, exactly, that President Reagan warned us about,” Kaine said.
“Senator, that was even beneath you and Hillary Clinton, and that’s pretty low,” Pence said.
On the subject of Russia, Pence said Clinton was to blame for many global problems in which Russia is involved.
“Hillary Clinton said her number one priority was a reset with Russia. That reset resulted in the invasion of Ukraine,” Pence said.
Pence said further that “the leading state sponsor of terror in the world in Iran now has a closer relationship with Russia because of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s foreign policy.”
But Kaine accused Pence of saying, “Vladimir Putin is a better leader than President Obama.”
Paine insisted that his remark did not represent an endorsement of Putin, but an indictment of the Obama administration’s “feckless leadership.”
But Kaine persisted, saying Putin is a “dictator” and “if you mistake leadership for dictatorship and you can’t tell the difference… you shouldn’t be commander in chief.”
Kaine also claimed that Trump’s family had made reference to Trump Organization business deals in Russia. Pence countered that Clinton had created a foundation that allowed “foreign governments and foreign donors” to contribute, and accused the Clinton Foundation of “pay-to-play” politics.
Noting that both Kaine and Pence are men of strong faith, Quijano asked each to cite a time when they had struggled to reconcile their faith with their policy-making decisions that may have forced them to act differently
Kaine said for him, the hardest issue was that of the death penalty. He noted that as a Roman Catholic, he has always stood strongly against the death penalty, but he was the governor of the state where it was the law, and sometimes he had to uphold the law and allow executions.
Pence said for his Christian faith, his focus was the “sanctity of life,” which he has sought to uphold as governor – standing behind “non-abortion alternatives” for women and focusing on adoption.”
Kaine said despite his pro-life religious belief, he and Clinton would uphold Roe v. Wade, and claimed that Pence had said he wanted to put Roe v. Wade on the “ash heap of history.” He went on to bring up a remark back in March suggesting that women should face “some sort of punishment” for abortion.”
“Donald Trump and I would never support legislation to punish women who made a heartbreaking choice to end a pregnancy,” Pence said.
When asked why Trump made the remark, Pence said Trump is “not a polished politician like you and Hillary Clinton.”
Kaine fired back that when Trump says “women should be punished, or Mexicans and rapists are criminals, or John McCain is not a hero, he is showing you who he is.”
A number of times during the debate, Quijano had to ask Kaine and Pence not to interrupt or talk over each other. “CBS Evening News” anchor Scott Pelley said, “It seemed at times the debate commission should have equipped her with a whip and a chair.”
CBS News contributor Bob Schieffer said Quijano had done a great job in moderating the debate, but in terms of importance, this was a vice presidential debate in a year where the focus was on the two people at the top of the ticket more than any in recent memory.
“I don’t think anything was settled her tonight. But this really sets the table for what’s going to happen Sunday night when we have the next presidential debate,” Schieffer said.
Traditionally, the vice presidential debate has no impact on the race.
“Mostly in these vice presidential debates, it’s sort of the Hippocratic Oath – first do no harm,” said CBS “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson.
Even though Pence and Kaine have campaigned for more than two months, many people say they still don’t have a feel for either man.
In a recent Associated Press-GfK poll, more than half of registered voters said they didn’t know enough about Kaine to venture an opinion about him, and about 44 percent said the same for Pence.
But according to a new CBS News poll, seven in 10 voters say they plan to tune in Tuesday night, including 47 percent who are very likely to watch.
According to the poll, 37 percent think Kaine has the ability to serve effectively as president if needed and 41 percent say that about Pence. But a sizable percentage of voters didn’t have an opinion.
The second presidential debate with Clinton and Trump Sunday night in St. Louis.
The vice presidential CBS News poll was conducted by telephone Sept. 28-Oct. 2, 2016 among a random sample of 1,501 adults nationwide, including 1,217 registered voters.
The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The margin of error for the sample of registered voters is three points. The error for subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)