Clinton Picks Virginia's Kaine as Running Mate

Clinton Picks Virginia's Kaine as Running Mate
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PHILADELPHIA – Hillary Clinton named Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine to be her vice presidential running mate, a choice that reflects her political ambitions as well as her affinity for a comfortable and reliable partner in governance.

Leading into the Democratic National Convention, which begins in Philadelphia on Monday, Clinton texted her choice to supporters Friday night.

In a subsequent lengthy email, the former secretary of state said, "Tim is a lifelong fighter for progressive causes and one of the most qualified vice presidential candidates in our nation's history." She praised him as “a man of relentless optimism who believes no problem is unsolvable if you're willing to put in the work” and added:

“But this is what’s important: Tim has never taken a job for the glory or the title. He's the same person whether the cameras are on or off. He's sincerely motivated by the belief that you can make a difference in people's lives through public service.”

Not surprisingly, Clinton’s opponent expressed a differing view. Donald Trump tweeted: “Tim Kaine is Hillary's VP pick. The ultimate insiders - Obama, Hillary and Kaine. Don't let Obama have a 3rd Term.” 

Clinton and Kaine, forging a Democratic counterweight to Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, are expected to appear together for the first time as a ticket during a Miami campaign event on Saturday. 

"Tim is a great pick -- he's been fighting for middle-class families his entire career as a teacher, civil rights lawyer, mayor, governor, and now senator," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

Tweets for the popular senator included this from a Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona: "Trying to count the ways I hate @timkaine. Drawing a blank. Congrats to a good man and a good friend."

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., tweeted: "@timkaine is brilliant and progressive, and he will make a great VP alongside @HillaryClinton."

Kaine, 58, in resume and cerebral style, is a complement to Clinton. She graduated from Yale Law School, and he earned his law degree at Harvard. She was raised in a suburb of Chicago in a middle-class household; Kaine grew up in similar circumstances in Kansas City. Clinton began a legal career as an advocate for children. Kaine started out as a civil rights attorney.

Together they portray themselves as bridge-builders who champion government as a powerful and positive tool for American achievement in a fast-moving world. And while their policy positions have not been identical, they are of like mind about battling to keep Trump out of the White House.

Political scientists who have studied the question insist vice presidential running mates have little impact on voters’ choices on Election Day. In some cases, a running mate can marginally move the needle in his or her home state, and a vice presidential contender can serve as an effective surrogate for the nominee, including during the fall debates. A running mate can help shore up a nominee’s vulnerabilities when it comes to experience, persona, or affinity with segments of the electorate. However, the two main tests for any vice presidential pick are, “do no harm,” and whether voters will buy the idea that he or she can ably step in as president, if necessary.

Kaine, in Clinton’s mind, passed those tests. As a former mayor of Richmond, an ex-governor of Virginia, and senator serving on the Armed Services, Budget, Foreign Relations and Aging committees since 2012, Kaine has navigated Virginia’s diverse political polarities. He has been vetted and tested in the spotlight, and earned a reputation as a savvy politician with an easy-going appeal among Virginia’s liberals and business interests, as well as the white, middle-class and conservative constituents living elsewhere in the Old Dominion.

Clinton enjoys a nearly five-point lead against Trump in Virginia, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average.

Although the progressive wing of the Democratic Party expressed misgivings about Kaine’s support for free trade and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as his ties while in the Senate to financial and business interests, Clinton is on record as opposing the 12-nation trade pact she once endorsed, and supports tough regulation of the financial sector. Her positions lurched leftward during a primary battle against Bernie Sanders, who eventually endorsed Clinton and will speak on the opening night of her convention. While weighing a vice presidential choice, Clinton considered liberal-favorite Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a powerhouse in her party who delights in skewering Trump and will address Democratic delegates in Philadelphia.

Alongside Clinton in Miami, Kaine is expected to flex his crossover appeal to young South Florida Latinos as a fluent Spanish speaker and surrogate for Clinton’s outreach to the fastest growing demographic in America. Her campaign has advertised in Spanish and uses social media en Español to encourage Latinos to register to vote and turn out in November. As in past cycles, their participation could tilt the election’s outcome in swing states, including in Florida and Colorado. Kaine, a pro-abortion-rights Catholic, gained his language fluency while working with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras as a young man.

Polls indicate Clinton enjoys a solid lead (66 percent-24 percent) over Trump among Hispanic registered voters, who widely reject the GOP nominee’s vows to build a wall at the U.S. border with Mexico and his characterizations of undocumented immigrants as criminals, rapists and murderers. Trump, whose base of support is predominantly white and male, reprised some of those views during his 75-minute acceptance speech Thursday at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Clinton, the first woman to win a major political party nomination as a presidential candidate, also aspires to win over women voters, African-Americans, many of the young people who were inspired by Sanders, as well as independents and moderate Republicans with college degrees. She is concentrating on contrasting her policies with Trump’s -- and Kaine is perceived as a persuasive partner who can shore up her vulnerabilities when it comes to trust and likeability, while also navigating with experience the rebuttals to Trump’s economic, homeland security, and international rhetoric.

In choosing Kaine, Clinton is risking the eventual loss of a Democrat in the Senate if Democrats hold the White House in November. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime friend of both Clintons, would, under those circumstances, appoint a temporary Democratic successor who would have less than a year to serve before a special election would be held in November 2017.

RCP's Nate Hiatt contributed to this report. 

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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