In retrospect, Hillary Clinton gave Charlie Rose a pretty big hint about her intentions earlier this week. Asked about Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and his self-professed “boring” personality, Clinton said, “And I love that about him. I mean, he’s never lost an election. He was a world-class mayor, governor and senator, and is one of the most highly respected senators I know.”
And now, if the Democrat has her way, he’ll be the next vice president of the United States.
Hillary Clinton has selected Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. Clinton announced the choice to her supporters by text message Friday evening “I’m thrilled to tell you this first: I’ve chosen Sen. Tim Kaine as my running mate.”Clinton and Kaine are slated to appear together at a joint rally in Miami, Florida on Saturday.
There’s a lot to this, so let’s dig in.
Let’s hear the basics on Tim Kaine.
He’s been widely recognized as Clinton’s most likely pick, largely because he checks several key boxes: Kaine is a smart, popular senator from a swing state who’s fluent in Spanish. He’s respected among his colleagues, and he’s worked his way up the ladder, having served as a mayor, lieutenant governor, governor, and senator.
Wasn’t he a big part of Barack Obama’s team back in the day?
Yep. In 2007, when much of the Democratic establishment was rallying behind Hillary Clinton, then-Gov. Kaine became the first prominent Dem to back Obama’s presidential campaign. He was reportedly the runner-up for VP in 2008.
Why didn’t he get the nod at the time?
Because Obama wanted someone with foreign-policy experience – which Kaine has since picked up as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee. In fact, no senator in either party has been more outspoken on the importance of the White House receiving congressional authorization to fight ISIS. He also was a prominent supporter of the Iran nuclear deal.
Rumor has it Tim Kaine is pretty boring.
By all appearances, he wears that label with pride, telling “Meet the Press” last month, “I am boring – but boring is the fastest-growing demographic in this country.” In fact, this was very likely part of Clinton’s calculus: if voters want steady, responsible, qualified leadership, the Democratic ticket offers exactly that. If voters want to take a chance on cover-your-eyes uncertainty, Donald Trump is available. Kaine’s selection, in other words sets up a clash of serious vs. unserious choices.
Rumor also has it Kaine is pretty moderate.
There’s certainly some truth to that; Kaine wasn’t the most liberal member of Clinton’s short list. Of particular concern for progressives, the Virginia Democrat agrees with President Obama on the Trans-Pacific Partnership; he’s endorsed some “reforms” to Dodd-Frank to weaken regulations on local and regional banks; and on reproductive rights, Kaine is a devout Roman Catholic who’s personally opposed to abortion.
As a progressive voter, I’m starting not to like what I’m hearing.
Well, there’s another side of Kaine’s record. Consider the progressive groups that give annual ratings to members of Congress based on their votes: Kaine earned a 100% from NARAL, a 100% from the Brady Campaign; a 100% from the Human Rights Campaign; a 96% from the NAACP; and a 94% from the AFL-CIO. Those generally aren’t the scores associated with a middle-of-the-road “centrist.” Also note, before entering politics, Kaine was an attorney combating housing discrimination. (Given Trump’s background, including having been sued for housing discrimination, it sets up another interesting contrast.)
What about that August/November/December framing you’re always droning on about?
Most running mates fit comfortably into one of these categories, but with Kaine, it’s a little tricky. My first instinct was to label him a November, since he’s a bilingual senator from a swing state who’s proven adept at fundraising, but there’s also a case to be made that the breadth of his experience makes him a January.
What would happen to his Senate seat?
If the Clinton/Kaine ticket wins, Kaine will obviously have to give up his Senate seat, and Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe (D), will appoint a temporary senator to fill the vacancy. He will no doubt pick a Dem to serve for two years, before voters in the commonwealth have their say in the fall of 2017, in a race that would coincide with Virginia’s next gubernatorial election.
[Note: “This Week in God” is off this week, but will return next Saturday.]