Vladimir Putin, Trump’s tax returns, the Iran nuclear agreement – a few topics came up time and time again during the lone vice presidential debate between Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Mike Pence.
Kaine, who is the running mate of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, repeatedly tried to get Pence to defend the views of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. At times Pence happily defended Trump, and at other times he hit back at Kaine and Clinton. This debate focused more on policy than did the first presidential debate, but at times the two had heated exchanges. Kaine even called Trump a “maniac” at one point, implying that he may start a nuclear war.
One of the main issues that Kaine kept bringing up was Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. He suggested that the reason Trump won’t release his returns is because the public will see that his tax plans will benefit him and that he has business dealings with Russia. Pence defended Trump, saying that he will release his tax returns after an IRS audit is complete. He also pointed out that Trump has completed a detailed financial disclosure.
Another area where Kaine went on the offensive was over positive remarks that Trump had made about Vladimir Putin. Pence pushed back, contending that Hillary Clinton was soft on Russia during her tenure as Secretary of State. At time, it appeared that the two were competing to see who could go further in condemning Putin and recent Russian actions in Europe. Kaine repeatedly gave Clinton credit for playing a key role in the Iranian nuclear agreement, but Pence dismissed the pact with Iran as having little impact on stopping that nation’s bid to acquire nuclear weapons.
On the economy, Pence stressed Trump’s tax plan, saying it will lead to greater prosperity than we have experienced under President Obama. Kaine emphasized Hillary Clinton’s economic proposal, which would spend federal dollars on a variety of new programs, cut taxes for some, and raise taxes on high-income earners.
Social issues, which have been largely absent during the presidential campaign, also came up. Pence condemned the Democratic Party for its support of partial-birth abortion and Kaine said that abortion was a matter of personal choice that should not be legislated.
While this debate featured discussion on a range of issues, it is difficult to say if it will have much impact on the campaign. As well-prepared as both candidates were, they are running for the second spot on the ticket. The attention of most voters is still focused on the people running for the top spot. Clinton and Trump will square off in their second debate on Sunday.