Hillary Clinton’s choice of Tim Kaine is about more than winning the battleground state (excuse me, Commonwealth) of Virginia. It’s about a seismic shift in the presidential chessboard this year – and for years to come.
The Clinton campaign calculates that she must win Virginia, North Carolina and Florida (57 total electoral votes) if Donald Trump’s anti-trade rhetoric makes the race close in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin (64 total electoral votes).
We may be seeing a fundamental, long-term change in both parties’ electoral strategies – a change that reflects long-running population and economic changes.
The decline in blue-collar manufacturing has hit the Midwest Rust Belt hard. Trump thinks he can win there by abandoning the GOP’s decades-old support for free trade. He has moved the Republican base from the executive suites to the factory floor (or unemployment line).
At the same time, politics is dramatically shifting in Virginia, North Carolina and, more slowly, Georgia. Democrats are gaining as the minority voting population grows and the ranks of college-educated whites in urban areas grow.
Kaine isn’t just a Southerner. He’s safe, smart and solid. He speaks Spanish, which is why he and Clinton campaigned in Florida Saturday. And, as a Virginia Republican friend said, “The thing I hate most about Tim Kaine is that he’s so likeable.”
Some optimistic (or delusional) Democrats even dream of one day winning Georgia and Texas (54 total electoral votes).
So North Carolina is a battleground again. The Clinton campaign is flooding the state with field operatives and ad dollars. Clinton and Trump were both here, again, Monday.
Get used to it for the next 15 weeks.
More than that, get used to being at ground zero in a new Presidential battlefield for many elections to come.
Gary Pearce is a veteran N.C. Democratic strategist writing on the 2016 conventions.