Clinton announces Tim Kaine as VP nominee
Hillary Clinton named Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate for the Democratic presidential ticket, a widely anticipated choice that may say more about how she wants to govern than how she plans to win in November.
Clinton made the announcement Friday in a text message to supporters.
Kaine, 58, a white Catholic from a battleground state who's fluent in Spanish, is a safe choice for the woman who will this week become the first-ever female presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party.
In 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama seriously considered Kaine, then in his third year as Virginia's governor, for vice president but ultimately passed him over in favor of the older, more experienced Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.
Since being elected to the Senate in 2012, Kaine has built his national security and economic credentials as a member of Senate Armed Services, Foreign Relations and Budget committees. He has sought to end open-ended Authorizations for the Use of Military Force in Afghanistan and Iraq, calling for debate and votes on a new authority for the mission against Islamic State.
The choice of Kaine will have appeal to some centrist Republicans uncomfortable with their party's nominee, Donald Trump. Yet it is sure to create disgruntlement among the liberal Democrats who supported Senator Bernie Sanders in his drawn-out challenge to Clinton for the nomination.
Kaine is seen as more pro-Wall Street than others who Clinton considered, especially Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. This week, as speculation about his selection built, he signed two letters to regulators urging leniency on all but the biggest banks. One, to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, was signed by every Republican senator and 16 other Democrats.
He's also a supporter of free trade, including the Trans- Pacific Partnership that President Barack Obama's administration negotiated with 11 other nations, and which awaits ratification in Congress. Sanders opposes the trade deal, and during the primary campaign Clinton said she wouldn't support it in its current form.
Before the announcement, some progressive groups warned Clinton to not pick a running mate who supports the trade deal.
"After promising to oppose the TPP, it's important for Clinton to pick someone who shares that position -- especially after her delegates rejected that position in the party platform," Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in a statement on Thursday.
Kaine has at times been cast as a "boring" pick, but Clinton has signaled that she sees that as an asset. "I love that about him," she told Charlie Rose of PBS this month. In mid-July, the pair appeared together at a rally in Northern Virginia, a tryout designed to test whether the potential Democratic ticket had chemistry on the stump.
Before announcing her decision, Clinton and aides stressed that her choice would be less about campaigning than about governing. "I am afflicted with the responsibility gene," she said in the PBS interview. "There is nothing more important than my rock-solid conviction that the person I choose could literally get up one day and be the president of the United States."
She added, "It's also important she pick someone committed to strong Wall Street reform. Otherwise, there will be a giant opening for Trump and other Republicans to outflank Democrats on economic populism issues and win important swing votes."
For Clinton, choosing Kaine meant walking away from a riskier, if more tantalizing, option: an all-female ticket with Warren. Warren has actively campaigned for Clinton, including at an electrifying rally in Ohio in June, and she's popular with the Democratic Party's liberal wing, including many of Sanders's backers.
While Warren would have driven up turnout among progressives, she is contentious enough that her presence on the ticket might have turned off some swing voters. The former Harvard Law School professor is fiercely independent and a vocal critic of Wall Street, potentially complicating a relationship with Clinton inside the White House.
Kaine also won out over three current members of Obama's Cabinet who were among Clinton's finalists, in part because of their geographic or demographic appeal: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, of Iowa, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, and Housing Secretary Julian Castro. The latter two are Hispanic.
Kaine also has connections with Hispanic voters, though, who'll be a crucial part of the coalition Clinton needs to win. He previously lived in Honduras, where he became fluent in Spanish, and while in the Central American country Kaine helped manage a Jesuit missionary school. In 2013 Kaine became the first U.S. senator to deliver a full speech in Spanish on the Senate floor, when he spoke in favor of a bipartisan immigration bill.
Republican nominee Trump's choice of Indiana Governor Mike Pence as a running mate, a pick aimed at unifying Republicans more than luring Democrats across party lines in November, freed up Clinton to go with a safe choice that may not energize the Democratic base as much as a female or liberal pick.
"It puts her in a position of, 'Why risk a chancy pick?'" said political analyst Matthew Dowd. "She's ahead. Why risk a downfield pass? Go with three yards and a cloud of dust as opposed to a long pass. If she was behind I think it would be a different equation. I think that's what the last two weeks have been."
The other contender most like Kaine in demeanor and record was Vilsack. Dowd said Kaine was a more strategic pick. Vilsack, as the current U.S. agriculture secretary, may have "too much linkage to Obama," Dowd said, adding that Kaine could help deliver Virginia for Clinton November while Vilsack, even as a former two-term governor, may have less sway over Iowa.
A Minnesota native and graduate of the University of Missouri and Harvard Law School, Kaine served as a law clerk in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh District and practiced law for years before entering local politics in Virginia. He served on the Richmond city council and as mayor before ascending to lieutenant governor and winning election as governor in 2005.
As governor, Kaine supported a coal power plant, a posture that pitted him against environmentalists but could help Clinton with coal miners after her own clumsy discussion earlier this year about investing in job training, in which she said she was "going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business."
Kaine is married, with three grown children. His wife, Anne Holton, a former judge, is Virginia's education secretary and rumored as a possible choice to fill his Senate seat should the Democrats win the White House in November.