Vice presidential hopefuls Tim Kaine and Mike Pence launched into their only debate of the campaign Tuesday, immediately clashing on the reputations and experiences 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 November 8.
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, describing her 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."
Pence, the governor of Indiana, calmly shot back: "You would know a lot about an insult-driven campaign," highlighting Clinton's relentless criticism of Trump in recent months.
"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."
The two men repeatedly talked over each over as they clashed over Trump's failure to release his tax records, social security and the prospect of mounting debt, forcing moderator Elaine Quijano to intervene and insist they cut it out.
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.