Politics & Government

Kaine’s Clinton VP audition includes Trump attack lines but with a smile

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., participate in a rally at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale on Thursday, July 14, 2016. Kaine has been rumored to be one of Clinton's possible vice president choices.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., participate in a rally at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale on Thursday, July 14, 2016. Kaine has been rumored to be one of Clinton's possible vice president choices. AP

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine tried out for vice president Thursday, appearing alongside Hillary Clinton at a boisterous rally in an important battleground state.

Kaine, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, assumed the familiar role of an attack dog — hurling one criticism after another at Republican Donald Trump — but with a smile.

Grinning and nodding, Clinton perched on a stool as Kaine asked the cheering crowd a series of questions, pointedly tailored towards Trump:

“Do you want a ‘you’re hired’ or a ‘you’re fired’ president?”

“Do you want a ‘trash-talker’ or a ‘bridge-builder’?

“Do you want a ‘me first!’ or a ‘kids and family first’?”

When Kaine introduced Clinton as the “future president of the United States,” the pair put their arms over each others’ shoulders as they waved and smiled to the crowd.

More than 2,000 people waited up to five hours in 90-degree-plus temperatures to get into the rally at Northern Virginia Community College. Some supporters sporting multiple Clinton pins and stickers were dripping sweat while others clutched chilled water bottles.

“I’m here not only for Hillary Clinton, but also for Tim Kaine because I like him so much,” said Mary Detweiler, 65, a retiree from Arlington, Va. “I think he has the kind of progressive values that I like.”

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I want somebody that’s a rational person; that can provide good leadership and management. That’s what we’re lacking in our government today. So I think it would be a good match.

Charles Sockey, 67, a retired federal employee from Potomac Falls, Va.

Kaine is considered to be on a list of candidates Clinton is considering, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio; Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey; Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Housing Secretary Julian Castro of Texas; Tom Perez, the secretary of labor; and Rep. Xavier Becerra of California. Some reports say James Stavridis, a retired four-star Navy admiral and dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, also was being vetted as a possible pick.

“It is such a great treat for me to be back here, and to have the chance to appear with this great senator,” Clinton said after Kaine spoke. “I appreciate so much the leadership he has shown for this state, and now he is doing the same in the Congress.”

In recent weeks, Clinton has campaigned with several contenders as she takes the kind of test runs that nominees often do to measure face-to-face campaign chemistry. Late last month, she campaigned with Warren, an extremely popular figure for the left wing of the party.

Pat Potter, 60, an outreach coordinator for George Mason University, said she is hoping Clinton picks Warren, but likes Kaine.

“He’s got a proven record. He doesn’t have any scandal in his past that they could bring up as a negative thing about him, and I think he and Hillary have worked together before and have a positive relationship,” she said.

Kaine, a former civil rights attorney, mayor and governor who is fluent in Spanish, tops most lists because he is considered a safe bet for the usually cautious presumptive Democratic nominee. He was one of Clinton’s first supporters, endorsing her in May 2014, and has executive experience and hails from a swing state. He was vetted by Barack Obama, who considered Kaine before choosing Joe Biden as his running mate.

“Tim Kaine seems to be the best fit and have the best credentials for Hillary,” said Timothy Walch, a former director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and an expert on vice presidential searches. “After a lot of deliberation and consultation, I believe that Hillary will be careful and that points to Kaine.”

In recent weeks, under more scrutiny, Kaine dealt with stories showing he took advantage of Virginia’s lenient laws to accept more than $150,000 in gifts while he was governor. The gift-giving in Virginia is common for governors and legislators on both sides of the aisle.

I wasn’t a big fan of him. I’d rather Hillary pick someone else.

Samantha Bello, 22, an office administrator from Woodward, Va.

But the biggest criticism against Kaine is that the centrist politician won’t likely help Clinton excite the liberal wing that Bernie Sanders energized.

Kaine may be able to win Clinton the all-important state of Virginia, as well as other Southern states, including North Carolina, said Kerry Haynie, a political science professor at Duke University. But, he said, Clinton needs to go with someone who is more liberal.

“She needs, in my view, to bring in a progressive view and I’m not sure Senator Kaine does that,” he said. “The Sanders, Warren wing ... are looking for an olive branch.”

Clinton will chose a vice president before Democrats gather in Philadelphia on July 25-28 for their national convention

Clinton has not said when she would name a running mate but some Democrats expect she will announce her pick July 22 after the Republican National Convention ends. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump is expected to announce Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his vice presidential choice.

Salome Gongadze, 18, a student from Arlington, Va. wants Clinton to pick Booker, but thinks it’s unlikely he makes the ticket, given his more limited political experience.

“I’d like someone more left wing,” Gongadze said. “But I’m pretty happy with Tim Kaine.”

Megan Henney in Washington contributed to this article.

Anita Kumar: 202-383-6017, @anitakumar01

Eleanor Mueller: 202-383-6033, @eleanor_mueller

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