The resemblance of Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential choice, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, to current Vice President Joseph Biden is striking. Both Biden and Kaine are white Catholics and life-long politicians who have served in the Senate. And both have hewed closely to the progressive Democratic line despite any qualms imposed by religion.
Kaine brings elite credentials, such as a Harvard pedigree, and little hint of scandal, as was the case with Biden. Having once served in a Catholic mission in Honduras in the 1980s, Kaine's resulting command of colloquial Spanish and dedication to a notion of social justice will serve him well among black Americans and Latinos during this electoral cycle. Going forward, he can be expected to give interviews in Spanish with leading Spanish-language media such as Univision, thus cementing the Democratic party’s bona fides with Latinos in the U.S.
Over the years, Kaine has won kudos from a number of progressive Democrat institutions. When Clinton announced him as her pick, Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood tweeted that Kaine has a 100% rating from her group’s powerful lobby. He also has the same rating from another prime mover in the abortion industry: NARAL. Kaine also has a 100% rating from the Brady Campaign, thus satisfying gun control advocates too. His credibility as a progressive was enough to gain him consideration by Barack Obama as a possible running mate in 2008. The nod, of course, when to Biden of Delaware who he resembled so closely.
Despite his Ivy League pedigree and progressive Democratic background, Kaine insists he is not notable. Last month on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Kaine said of himself “I am boring." He added, as if signalling that baby-boomers are not to be dismissed as unimportant: "But boring is the fastest-growing demographic in this country."
Kaine represents the swing state of Virginia, which has 13 electoral votes that must be won for Republicans to have a chance this fall. This is a fact not lost on anyone, especially the Clintons. While Democrats could lose Virginia but still handily reach the 270 needed to win, with Kaine on the ticket, Virginia is more likely to remain blue, as it was in 2008 and 2012.
Why would Clinton choose “boring” as her vice president? By choosing Kaine over HUD Secretary Julian Castro or Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, or Senator Elizabeth Warren, Clinton has proven that she can be pragmatic when necessary. The flagship magazine of conservatives, The National Review, published an article in April that provided several reasons why she should choose Kaine, summing them up as: “He’s safe, experienced, and uncontroversial.”
Among the reasons is that Kaine will not bring on the Socialist fire promised by his colleague Sen. Bernie Sanders. After all, a vice president should not overshadow the top of the ticket. He is younger than Clinton and has had no known “bimbo eruptions,” he has served effectively as mayor of Richmond and governor of Virginia. These qualifications can well describe him as not only boring but safe, too.
Disciplined wonkish messenger
Once Clinton made Kaine her V.P. choice, the state of Virginia released 145,000 of his emails from his stint as governor. In his exchanges with officials, he is seen as being aware of and interested in the minutiae of policy and messaging. Kaine, for instance, noted once that he regularly visited the websites of the various state agencies to ensure that they were properly touting his accomplishments in the governor’s seat. Kaine has proven himself to be even more "safe" than Biden because of his attention to detail and sensitivity to the media. He is known for avoiding gaffes such as Biden’s by discussing complex topics with staff members before braving reporters. His attention to detail extends to the very smallest: for example, he has made his own spreadsheets, edited his online biography. And he does not hesitate to mention his connections to Barack Obama. In 2007, Kaine was the first governor outside of Illinois who endorsed Obama’s campaign.
Kaine is good at communicating
Kaine made headlines during his first year in office in the Senate by delivering a speech entirely in Spanish. Being already immersed in policy and his experience as an executive, he has handled himself well enough in debate while campaigning for the governorship and Senate. He would likely handle a debate with Trump’s running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, with whom he shares a Midwestern background and long service in government.
He's a white male
Clinton has the other traditional constituencies of the Democratic party already sewn up. Feminists, gays and lesbians, black Americans, and most progressives can be counted on to pull the lever for her, even though she remains unpopular as a person. White men are, however, a demographic vulnerability for Clinton, and Kaine may be able to wrest some of them from Donald Trump, who has so assiduously courted them. Additionally, Kaine can easily appeal to Latinos because of his command of Spanish and his Catholic religion. He also sings in the choir at a Catholic parish in Richmond that has a majority black congregation.
If leftists and progressives cry foul over his whiteness, Kaine can point to his upbringing in a blue-collar home in Kansas City, Missouri, where his father owned and operated a small ironworking shop. Moreover, he practiced law in Richmond VA for 17 years and specialized in representing people who had been denied housing, ostensibly because of their race.
Kaine will be able to handle Bill Clinton
Kaine has proven his loyalty to Clinton, even though he was an early endorser of newcomer Obama's 2008 campaign. After being given the job of head of the Democratic National Committee as a consolation prize by Obama, he was an early endorser of Clinton in 2014. According to The New York Times, advisors to Clinton said that she was looking for a running mate willing to acknowledge that former president Bill Clinton will take an active or even a formal role in the presidency on certain issues. According to Myra Adams at The National Review, this translates to acknowledging that “‘Big Dog’” Bill Clinton “will be free to roam, jump on your desk, and pee on your papers. But compared with some others on the Times short list, Kaine is a seasoned political pro more likely to ‘accept and appreciate’ Bill and less likely to be intimidated when the former president “offers expertise and guidance.”