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WATCH: 5 Top Moments From The Vice Presidential Debate

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., left, and Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., speak during the vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va.
Saul Loeb
AFP/Getty Images
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., left, and Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., speak during the vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va.

The only vice presidential debate between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence was a bit more heated than expected. For 90 minutes on Tuesday night they sparred on foreign policy, abortion and immigration. But the biggest shadows hanging over them were their running mates.

Pence had to defend many controversial things Donald Trump has said — and often he outright denied Trump had said those things, even though video evidence shows otherwise. Kaine tried to be an attack dog and go after Trump on his taxes, but he also was on the defensive over Hillary Clinton's email server and her struggles to connect with voters.

Overall, the fiery debate wasn't very disciplined, and both men deviated from the questions moderator Elaine Quijano of CBS News asked. But it was still a far more cordial affair than the bitter match-up Trump and Clinton had just over a week ago — and will likely be more civil than their next two.

We recapped the full debate and its biggest moments, and NPR's politics and policy reporters also fact-checked the debate in real-time. Below are videos of five highlights and most talked-about moments.

'You Whipped Out That Mexican Thing Again'

Unfortunately for Pence, a rather strong performance from the Indiana governor — who proved he has a future in politics win or lose this November — was overshadowed on social media with this ill-phrased comment. Throughout the night, Kaine brought up some of Trump's controversial statements on immigrants, and at the end of the debate the Virginia senator lobbed the attack again, quoting Matthew 12:34 ("From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.") as evidence Trump meant what he said about immigrants.

"Senator, you whipped out that Mexican thing again," Pence retorted. "There are criminal aliens in this country, Tim, who have come into this country illegally who are perpetrating violence and taking American lives. He also said, 'And many of them are good people.' You keep leaving that out of your quote."

Actually, Trump said in his announcement speech that Mexican immigrants are "bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some, I assume, are good people."

Foundation vs. Foundation

The charitable organization of each presidential candidate has been deeply probed this election cycle, and the vice presidential nominees defended their running mate's charities while attacking their opponent's. Pence attacked the Clinton Foundation for accepting money from foreign donors and governments, but Kaine defended it by saying it has high charity ratings and provides AIDS medication and works to curb the opioid epidemic.

Kaine attacked Trump over his charitable foundation, which has been probed in the Washington Post over how it has spent its money — including on a $10,000 portrait of Trump. The Post also reported Trump's foundation had to pay an IRS penalty for donating to a political group linked to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (who at the time was deciding whether to pursue fraud allegations against Trump University).

To Russia, With Love?

Trump's frequent, controversial praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin was also a central flashpoint throughout Tuesday's debate. Pence denied that Trump has praised him (even though he has repeatedly) and even described him as the "small and bullying leader of Russia." But he did say that Putin would respect a Trump administration because of "strength, plain and simple." Kaine interrupted trying to probe Trump's possible business ties to Russia. "Americans need to worry about whether Donald Trump will be watching out for America's bottom line or his own bottom line," the Democrat said.

The 'Insult-Driven Campaign'

Pence was also incredulous when Kaine charged that Trump was running an "insult-driven campaign" and shot back with Clinton's comments calling Trump's supporters a "basket of deplorables."

Of course, during the debate Trump was tweeting the debate — and re-tweeting some of his supporters who were insulting Kaine.

The VP Candidates' Faith

One of the more somber moments of the debate came when Kaine and Pence were asked about their faith and if it ever conflicted with their public policy responsibilities. Kaine talked about how he had to enforce the death penalty even though he is personally against it, as is the Catholic Church, to which he belongs. Pence, an evangelical Protestant, used the time to talk about his opposition to abortion and belief in the "sanctity of life." Trump has a mixed record on abortion, and Pence's comments could influence the evangelical base which may be skeptical of the GOP nominee's commitment to anti-abortion causes.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.