Kaine wasted no time in tonight’s vice presidential debate. His second question was about Hillary Clinton’s trustworthiness, and he answered it by saying that Donald Trump was a racist, sexist bully who doesn’t pay taxes. While Pence attempted to answer a question about concerns about Trump’s temperament, Kaine fact-checked him in real time, not only contradicting Pence’s remarks but arguing that he was, in fact, an extension of Trump: “You are Trump’s apprentice,” Kaine said. He stumbled over the line, but that’s his core message in the debate tonight.
Kaine’s entire strategy in the night’s debate is to keep Trump’s temperament and his racism at the forefront, even as Pence tries to put a reasonable face on his running mate’s campaign. So far, Kaine hasn’t gotten under Pence’s skin. That’s partly because Kaine seems like he might be hopped up on Donald Trump’s diet pills. When Kaine said Hillary Clinton will be the “you’re hired” president and Donald Trump will be the “you’re fired” president, Pence’s face said: “Can you believe how corny this guy is?” But it’s a good strategy. Kaine needs to tie Pence to Trump at a particularly low moment for Trump.