Lauren Fox contributed reporting.
Tim Kaine pinged Mike Pence at Tuesday’s vice presidential debate for his claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin was a stronger leader than President Obama.
“Donald Trump again and again has praised Vladimir Putin and it’s clear he has business dealings with Russians that are connected to Putin,” Kaine began, before referencing former Trump campaign advisers Paul Manafort and Carter Page. “The Trump campaign management team had to be fired a month or so ago because of those shadowy connections with pro-Putin forces.”
“Governor Pence made an odd claim,” Kaine continued. “He said, inarguably, Vladimir Putin is a better leader than President Obama. Vladimir Putin’s run his economy into the ground. He persecutes LGBT folks and journalists. If you don’t know the difference between difference between dictatorship and leadership, you’ve got to go back to a fifth grade civics course.”
In an interview Pence did with CNN in September, he referred to Putin as a “stronger leader” than Obama.
Later, Pence returned to Trump’s praise for Putin, claiming it was an “indictment” of President Obama’s leadership.
“Look he brought his experience to the table tonight and I think that’s an incredibly beneficial thing,” Trump’s deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, told TPM in the post-debate spin room at Longwood University after the debate. When asked whether Trump and Pence might differ on their posture toward Putin, he replied “I’m here to talk about Gov. Pence’s performance.”
This post has been updated.