Tim Kaine and Mike Pence are experienced politicians but little known to many American voters.
Tim Kaine and Mike Pence have faced off in the only vice-presidential debate in the run-up to the US election, clashing over national security, immigration and other issues.
Early on in the debate on Tuesday night, Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate, clashed with Pence, Donald Trump’s choice for vice president, over reports that the Republican nominee could have avoided paying taxes for nearly two decades.
Pence, the governor of Indiana, responded that Trump “used the tax code just the way it’s supposed to be used, and he did it brilliantly”.
The two candidates wasted no time in launching broadsides against the presidential rivals in the opening minutes of their 90-minute debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.
Kaine, a US senator from Virginia, repeatedly interrupted Pence, who in contrast to his temperamental running mate kept his calm and mocked his Democratic counterpart for his prepared one-liners.
Political analyst Bill Schneider said Kaine appeared “very aggressive”.
“I’m not sure that impressed the audience,” he told Al Jazeera.
Schneider said that while Kaine might have won the debate on points, “the audience might have sympathised more with Pence” as he was being pummelled .
When the issue of immigration was raised, the Republican candidate defended Trump’s proposal to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and slammed Clinton for supporting what he called an “amnesty”.
The Virginia senator responded that he and Clinton support comprehensive immigration reform and Pence and Trump are for a “deportation nation”.
While Pence gave the Obama administration credit for eliminating Osama bin Laden, he said “America is less safe today” than it was before the Democrat became president.
Kaine again took the opportunity to bring up Trump’s taxes, saying that by not paying taxes for years, he had not supported the “fight against terror” after 9/11.
The vice-presidential candidates seemed unlikely to dramatically change the way voters view Trump and Clinton, who met on the debate stage last Monday.
Still, the nationally televised debate gave the longtime politicians a chance to introduce themselves to Americans, energising party loyalists and potentially swaying the shrinking pool of undecided voters.
In a recent Associated Press-GfK poll, more than half of registered voters said they did not know enough about Kaine to venture an opinion about him, and about 44 percent said the same for Pence.
Trump and Clinton’s campaigns both tweeted continuously throughout the campaigns.
Mike Pence won big. We should all be proud of Mike!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2016
"We trust American women."
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 5, 2016
Clinton was widely viewed as the winner of her opening debate with Trump, rattling the property mogul with jabs about his business record and demeaning statements about women, and responding to his attacks with calm rejoinders.
New public opinion polls have showed her improving her standing in nearly all battleground states.