As expected, Hillary Clinton
selected Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine
as her running mate last night. Kaine, previously governor, is a popular moderate from a purple state. It's the boring, safe pick, which makes some sense given the dynamics in the election (it's perhaps a signal that the Clinton campaign believes that she's the heavy favorite and that they can win in part by depicting Donald Trump as clearly unfit for office). The Veepstakes is a fun bit of drama for political junkies, but the evidence suggests that these picks make no difference in election results.
Kaine, who was one of the earliest endorsers of President Barack Obama over Clinton in 2008, was also a finalist for Obama's V-P selection.
It's also worth noting that the main point of this exercise is to pick someone who would be qualified to take over as president in the wake of unexpected tragedy. Kaine is not a popular choice on the left (he's basically a mainstream Democrat in the Clinton mold), but he's clearly qualified for the office.
Former Gov. Mike Beebe
responded to the pick in an interview with the D-G
It's a great pick. He's a solid guy, someone that's a good thinker. Since he's been in the Senate, he's added a lot of foreign policy experience. He's consistent with what most Arkansans are comfortable with. He's decisive, deliberate and he's smart.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee
, an advocacy group that did not endorse in the primary but describes itself as representing the "Elizabeth Warren wing of American politics, slammed the pick because of Kaine's support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal:
As we saw in Donald Trump’s speech last night, Republicans will run hard against Democrats on trade this year. Unfortunately, since Tim Kaine voted to fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Republicans now have a new opening to attack Democrats on this economic populist issue.
Since Clinton, the one at the top of the ticket, has already flip-flopped to oppose TPP, it's hard for me to see what difference the Kaine pick really makes on this front. But politics is partly about symbolism and signalling, of course, and some in the Democratic base who remain leery of Clinton were hoping for a fig leaf for the left in the Veep pick rather than an avatar of Clintonism. Again, color me skeptical that this makes much difference (my own view is that you want your lefty champions in the legislature, not as symbolic figureheads on the political ticket, but your mileage may vary).
Also in the D-G
, former Sen. Mark Pryor
said of the Catholic Kaine: "His faith is something that people would relate to here. It's very deep to him and personal. He's not ashamed to to talk about it."
Some Arkansas Republicans were less enthusiastic about the pick. State Sen. Bart Hester tweeted that
Kaine is "all about killing unborn babies which aligns perfectly with Hillary."
Kaine (like our current Catholic vice-president) describes himself as personally opposed to abortion but supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose. He had a perfect voting record from reproductive rights groups as a senator; however, as governor his record was more mixed, including backing efforts at abstinence-free education, a parental consent law, and a so-called partial-birth abortion ban (with exceptions for health of the mother). Kaine has moved left on the issue, as evidenced by his record in the senate — including strong backing of Planned Parenthood — and obviously his nomination changes nothing about the Democratic Party's platform on abortion. But again, politics is about symbolism and his wobbly past positioning creates a bit of a trust hurdle for base voters on this issue. More on this topic at Politico
Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight
says Kaine is the "generic Democrat" choice but could plausibly be a difference-maker in Virginia:
Kaine has traditional credentials, having served as Virginia’s governor before joining the U.S. Senate. He’s young enough, at 58, that he could run for president himself in 2020 or 2024. He’s not especially liberal, but he’s no Blue Dog Democrat, either. He’s a white guy, although he speaks good Spanish. If Mike Pence is a “generic Republican,” then Kaine is a “generic Democrat.”
The difference is that Kaine comes from a swing state, whereas Donald Trump would likely lose Pence’s home state, Indiana, only in a national landslide.
Silver estimates that Kaine improves Clinton's outlook incrementally because there is a small chance that Virginia could be a difference-maker: "elections are won on the margins, and Clinton would be marginally better off with Kaine’s help in Virginia than without it."