The vice presidential candidates had center stage Tuesday night for their only debate of the campaign — and Donald Trump was right there with them. On Twitter.
The Republican presidential candidate, famous for unleashing searing and often self-destructive insults in the early morning hours, live-tweeted the match-up between his running-mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, the Democrat of Virginia. His tweets, though, were relatively restrained.
Clinton, whose Twitter account before the debate featured barbs directed at both Pence and Trump, planned to watch the debate at her home in Chappaqua without Twitter, according to her aides.
The event at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, came a week after the first debate between Trump and Clinton and a bad stretch for the New York businessman. He was criticized for a poor debate performance and prolonged attacks — on Twitter — on a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, over her weight. Then tax records obtained by The New York Times showed a $900 million loss on his 1995 returns, which could have allowed him to avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.
The tweets on Clinton’s Twitter page reminded people of those problems.
"Number of times Trump has tweeted at @Rosie: 65," read one, a reference to his put-downs of Rosie O’Donnell, whom he has called a slob with a fat, ugly face. "Number of times Trump has tweeted in support of Mike Pence, his running mate: 21."
Pence was portrayed in a short video as a mirror of Trump, "Mike Pence: a divisive, anti-woman, anti-LGBT, anti-worker extremist. No wonder Trump picked him."
As the debate began, Trump quickly referenced a tweet that called Kaine a liar, and said that Marines and the military were scared of "the liar running," using the hashtag Benghazi. Both men have sons who are Marines and Kaine had said he trusted his son's life to Clinton.
"The thought of Donald Trump as commander-in-chief scares us to death," Kaine said.
Trump, responding to others, agreed that Kaine looked like a fool — and like an evil crook out of the Batman movies.
Clinton, he said, "sneers at millions of average Americans," he said, linking to her comment at a fund raiser that half of Trump's supporters could be put into a "basket of deplorables."
He tweeted a link to reporters' observations that Pence was dominating the start of the debate with his quiet demeanor — though not to others that noted Pence did not try to defend Trump.
And Trump leaped on Clinton's "careless" use of a private email server while secretary of state, repeating his assertion that she put the national security of the country at risk.
The debate, more acrimonious than many expected, was characterized by the men often talking over each other — with Kaine in particular interrupting at the start. Kaine frequently repeated Trump's words to Pence, which Pence often denied.
Clinton's team meanwhile was tweeting some of Kaine's debate zingers.
"Donald Trump can't start a Twitter war with Miss Universe without shooting himself in the foot," it tweeted.
And in response to Trump having said that not paying taxes made him smart, "Guess that makes all the rest of us stupid."