TAMPA, Florida—Hillary Clinton has tapped Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate, adding a well-liked swing-state moderate with broad governing experience to the Democratic ticket.
Clinton’s choice of Kaine, 58, reflects her calculation that voters with doubts about both her and Republican nominee Donald Trump will respond to a doubling-down of her pitch for sober pragmatism, instead of a political wild card.
Clinton tweeted late on Friday that she was “thrilled” to announce Kaine as her running mate, calling him “a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others.”
But Kaine, a former mayor, lieutenant governor and governor, is not likely to animate a Democratic base drawn by the progressive fire of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.
A finalist to be President Barack Obama’s running mate in 2008, Kaine was long considered a front-runner for the No. 2 spot this time.
Kaine, a Spanish speaker who worked with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras during a break from Harvard Law School, was also a civil-rights lawyer before being elected to the city council in Virginia’s capital of Richmond, where he later became mayor.
He won statewide elections three times in what had long been a Republican-leaning commonwealth: for lieutenant governor in 2001, governor in 2005 and the US Senate in 2012.
Former aides attribute his success as much to his authenticity and affability as to his keen political acumen. He still often carries a harmonica that he has been known to whip out on the campaign trail.
During his 2005 race for governor, he met Obama, and they bonded over shared family roots in Kansas and messages of changing politics.
Kaine was among the first statewide officials to endorse Obama’s presidential run and provided key support in Virginia, a closely fought state that would swing Democratic for the first time in generations.
Obama named Kaine as chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2009, and he served in the role until launching his Senate bid in 2011.
Kaine again endorsed early in this presidential race, this time for Clinton even before she had taken steps toward a second run. Just as with Obama, Kaine has talked of Clinton’s own barrier-breaking candidacy in 2016. Speaking with donors in California this week, he described the role of vice president in the first female
presidency as historic.
Kaine, who married the daughter of a former Republican governor of Virginia, is at odds with his party’s mainstream on some issues. A devout Catholic, Kaine has said he considers himself personally anti-abortion, and he supports some restrictions on the practice. But he has maintained support for Roe versus Wade and as a senator has earned perfect vote ratings from leading abortion-rights groups.
ONE major selling point for Clinton was Kaine’s credentials on gun control, which has emerged as a key issue for her and which Obama has identified as a litmus test for his support.
As governor during the shooting massacre on the campus of Virginia Tech in 2007, Kaine partnered with the GOP Legislature and Virginia’s Republican attorney general to strengthen the state’s background check system. Vice President Joe Biden joined Kaine in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting to highlight those reforms as a template for what could be accomplished on the national level.
After taking office in 2013, Kaine quickly worked to address what had been cited as his main shortcoming during the vetting to be Obama’s running mate: lack of foreign-policy experience.
As a member of the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, Kaine became an outspoken advocate of passing a new authorization to use military force against Islamic State, even as the Obama administration insisted military action against the new terrorist network was sanctioned by a separate legislation passed after the September 11 attacks.
Image credits: AP