Who's tougher on Russia?
As if to counteract Trump's repeated praising of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pence talked tough on Russia's "barbaric" acts in Syria. "The small and bullying leader of Russia is now dictating terms to the United States to the point where the United States of America, the greatest nation on Earth, just withdraws from talk about a ceasefire," he said, referring to the U.S. withdrawal from talks with Russia on Syria this week.
In the face of Russian and Syrian bombing of Aleppo, Gov. Pence proposed direct military action, something that comes very close to what would be the first direct military confrontation with Russia in a generation. "The provocations by Russia need to be met by American strength," he said. "If Russia continues to be involved in this barbaric attack on civilians in Aleppo, the U.S. needs to be prepared to strike military targets of the Assad regime, to prevent them from this humanitarian crisis taking place in Aleppo."
He claimed that the Obama administration's "reset" with Russia five years ago led to Russia's invasion and annexation of Crimea.
Kaine struck back by digging up the connections between Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Putin. "It's clear he has business dealings with Russia and is very connected to Putin," he said. "The Trump campaign management team had to be fired a month or so ago because of those shadowy connections."
'People in Scranton know different'
Pence attacked the current state of economy and tried to tie Hillary Clinton to President Obama. As Kaine interrupted him with statistics on the number of jobs that had been created under Obama, Pence retorted, "Honestly, Senator, you can roll out the numbers, but people in Scranton [Pennsylvania] know different."
Pence then defended Donald Trump's boast that he brilliantly used the U.S. tax code to pay as little as taxes as possible. Pence said Trump's business was "going through a difficult time" and that he used the tax code the way it was intended. Any avoidance of taxes, Pence said, should be viewed in the context that Trump has created "tens of thousands of jobs." Kaine responded that Trump had broken a promise to the American people by not disclosing his tax returns. He pointed out that Pence had to disclose his tax returns to become the vice presidential nominee but that Trump still had not released his to the American people.
Kaine says Trump has his 'personal Mount Rushmore' of dictators
In reply to that jab during the discussion on terrorism policy, Pence said, "Did you work on that one for a while? Because that had a lot of creative lines in it." It summed up the tenor of the first half of the debate, with Kaine ferociously prosecuting Trump and Pence deflecting with a smirk and a ready zinger. The inability to pin Pence down clearly frustrated Kaine, as he became harsher in his rhetoric. Unlike the first presidential debate, the audience followed the rules: Neither candidate got help from applause, laughter, or reaction at all.
Pence rolled out some of his own creative lines as he argued that Clinton had allowed ISIS to be "conjured out of the desert." Pence did not defend Trump's terrorism policies as much as he attacked the status quo. He declared that America "is less safe today than the day Obama became president."
Kaine briefly described Clinton's own four-point plan to combat terrorism before turning to Trump. He said that Trump had a "Mount Rushmore" of dictators that he admired, including Vladimir Putin and Muammar Gaddafi. He said that Trump "trashes the military" and had no real plan to defeat ISIS.
Ending 'illegal immigration' once and for all
Responding to a question about their campaigns' plans for immigration, the VP picks focused on policy details.
Pence said a Trump administration would "end illegal immigration once and for all." Pence laid out Trump's immigration plan, which focuses on border security and deporting what he called "criminal aliens" — apparently referring to undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes. (Immigrants commit fewer crimes overall, studies show.)
Before Kaine outlined the Clinton immigration plan, he and Pence took a moment to bicker about whose candidate has insulted more people. Kaine brought up Trump criticizing a Latino judge and calling Mexican immigrants "rapists." Pence said these comments were "small potatoes" compared to Clinton saying half of Trump-Pence's supporters are a "basket of deplorables."
Kaine eventually detailed the key points of the Democratic campaign's immigration reform plans, which he said will focus on more border control, keeping families together, and a path to citizenship for those "who play by the rules."
"Hillary and I believe in comprehensive immigration reform; Donald Trump believes in deportation," Kaine said.
Twitter data at the midway point:
Since start of #VPdebate, share of Twitter conversation around the vice presidential candidates:
60% - @Mike_Pence
40% - @TimKaine
Since #VPdebate start, share of Twitter conversation around the presidential candidates:
63% - @RealDonaldTrump
37% - @HillaryClinton
Does Donald Trump pay taxes?
The New York Times uncovered the first few pages of Donald Trump and then-wife Marla Maples' taxes that showed Trump declared a nearly $1 billion personal loss in 1995, enough to not pay taxes for an estimated 18 years. Tonight Mike Pence argued that Trump's use of the tax code for his own benefit should be considered a badge of honor, and compared Trump's "tough times" with that of the New York Times, which broke the story:
"Donald Trump is a businessman, not a politician," Pence said. "Those tax returns showed he faced some tough times all those years ago. Just like the New York Times. His tax returns showed he went through a very difficult time — but he used the tax code the way it's supposed to be used."
Beyond whether Trump paid taxes, Kaine predictably attacked Trump for not disclosing his tax returns, even if they are, as he claims, under IRS audit.
"Richard Nixon released his tax returns under audit," Kaine said.
Race and policing in America
"At the risk of agreeing with you, community policing is a great idea," Pence said to Kaine. But Pence argued that there'd recently been too many public attempts to politicize police shootings. Pence called for an end to the "bad-mouthing" that "seizes upon tragedy, as a reason to use a broad brush to accuse law enforcement of implicit bias or institutional racism. That really has got to stop."
"Enough of this seeking every opportunity to demean law enforcement," Pence said, slamming Hillary Clinton for politicizing a recent shooting of an African-American in Charlotte, North Carolina, by an African-American police officer.
Kaine responded by arguing that it simply didn't make sense to avoid pointing out issues of racism in policing. "People shouldn't be afraid to bring up issues of bias in law enforcement. If you're afraid to have the discussion, it will never happen." Philando Castile, who was shot by police in Minneapolis earlier this year, "he was killed for no apparent reason," Kaine said, adding that Castile was well-liked within his community. "He had been stopped by police 40 or 50 times" before that fatal incident. Kaine also noted Trump's stated intention to institute the controversial stop and frisk practice nationwide if elected.
The VP candidates went head-to-head on their campaigns' plans to boost the economy. Pence said he and Trump were focused on a plan that would bring down the national debt. "We can get America moving again," he said.
In response, Kaine pitched what he called a "fundamental choice" — voting for Clinton, a "you're hired president" or Trump, a "you're fired, president," playing off Trump's signature line from his reality show. Kaine detailed plans for tax relief for small business and the middle class, equal pay for women, and raising the minimum wage.
Why should voters trust Donald Trump?
During Mike Pence's turn to explain why voters should trust his running mate, the Indiana governor focused more on opponent Clinton's shortcomings policy than his candidate's qualities. He called the former secretary of state the "architect" of President Barack Obama's foreign policy in the Middle East, which he said was "spinning out of control."
Pence briefly provided evidence for Trump deserved people's trust, saying the Republican presidential nominee has built a business through "hard times and good times."
"There's a reason why people question the trustworthiness of Hillary Clinton. The reason is because they're paying attention."
Kaine on why voters should trust Hillary Clinton
When asked why voters should trust Hillary Clinton, Kaine cited her strong, lifelong dedication and passion for service.
"Let me tell you why I trust Hillary Clinton," Kaine said, adding that he trusted people who had "a passion in their life that showed up before they were in public life."
"Hillary Clinton has that passion." Kaine said. Clinton had a long history of "empowering others, with a special focus on empowering kids. "Donald Trump always puts himself first," Kaine asserted.
Kaine comes out strong against Donald Trump
And the debate begins.
GOP declares a winner — before the debate begins
Mike Pence won the debate Tuesday night, the Republican Party declared on its website an hour before the debate started. He dominated Democrat Tim Kaine on the issues of the "economy" and "highlighted Hillary's scandals." The only other winner, the GOP declared, was Donald Trump.
The Republican Party has since taken down the post, realizing it had been a bit premature. But now it is clear that no matter what Mike Pence said or did, the GOP was going to say that he won.
VICE News will be updating this post with the latest quotes and analysis from the first and only vice presidential debate in the 2016 election.