Donald Trump was likened to a “fool or maniac” while Hillary Clinton was dismissed as “weak and feckless” in a punchy vice presidential debate.
Democratic Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and Republican Indiana Governor Mike Pence clashed on a series of topics ranging from abortion to Russia.
But they focused their sharpest exchanges on Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump.
The running mates tangled at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, 34 days before Americans go to the polls.
It set the stage for a second presidential debate this Sunday in St Louis, Missouri, where Mr Trump needs to rebound from a wobbly
performance in the first match.
In Tuesday’s 90-minute duel, the usually low-key Mr Kaine went on the attack from the beginning.