Hillary Clinton and newly-named running mate Tim Kaine hit the campaign trail together Saturday in the first test of the Democratic presidential team as the battle to beat Donald Trump in November enters its final stretch.
The former first lady tapped Kaine, 58, late Friday in what was widely seen as a safe but wise choice: the popular Spanish-speaking senator from the swing state of Virginia is a political veteran and foreign policy hand who ticks a lot of boxes.
Widely seen as a safe choice in a brutal election race–Kaine himself jokes that he is “boring”–the senator could help Clinton lock in two key voting blocs: Hispanics and his battleground home state.
With working-class roots and a spotless record both as governor and senator, he is also seen as helping Clinton garner support among reluctant independent male voters–although at risk of alienating the party’s progressive left wing.
Who is Tim Kaine?
The two were to rally supporters in Miami on Saturday afternoon. Fellow Democrats widely applauded Clinton’s choice of a man who she said has “devoted his life to fighting for others.”
The Democratic Party sent out a fundraising appeal Saturday signed by US President Barack Obama, calling Kaine an “optimist” and “progressive fighter.”
“He’s the son of a teacher and an iron worker who’s always got working families on his mind,” the letter said.
“And when a gunman killed 32 people on the campus of Virginia Tech (in 2007), Tim knew he had a responsibility as governor to offer more than thoughts and prayers to the community he mourned with–and as a gun owner, he stood up to the gun lobby on their behalf.”
Kaine also has strong ties to the African-American community, dating back to his work as a civil rights lawyer.
Major labor and pro-Democratic groups also praised the Kaine pick, including Planned Parenthood, AFL-CIO and other big unions, and the Sierra Club.
Clinton “understands how important that dynamic is between the vice president and the president, and I don’t think she wants to saddle herself with someone who might be helpful for the next four months and unhelpful for the next four or eight years,” former Obama advisor David Axelrod told CNN.
“He also is a US senator who serves on both the Foreign Relations Committee and the Armed Services Committee, and is very fluent in national security issues which is going to be increasingly important apparently in this election.”
Clinton’s praises on social media
Clinton and Kaine officially joined forces ahead of the Democratic National Convention which kicks off Monday in Philadelphia, where they will be elevated as the official nominees to the party’s presidential ticket.
Clinton put out a series of tweets heaping praise on the senator.
She described him as “a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it” saying his guiding principle was “the belief that you can make a difference through public service.”
One of Clinton’s tweets included a five-point graphic highlighting the senator’s youthful spell on a Jesuit mission in Honduras as well as his track record in fighting homelessness, discrimination and gun violence, in expanding early childhood education and in fostering a pro-business environment in Virginia.
Clinton, 68, had said she wanted a running mate with enough experience to “literally get up one day and be the president of the United States.”
Trump chimes in
Nationwide polls suggest Trump and Clinton are running almost neck and neck.
The New York billionaire painted a dark picture of an America mired in poverty and violence as he accepted his party’s nomination Thursday night, promising to restore law and order, clamp down on immigration and put America first.
Trump’s choice of running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence who is a conservative evangelical Christian, could serve to reassure voters alarmed by his rhetoric.
As for Clinton’s running mate, Trump insinuated Kaine is stained by corruption, posting on Twitter: “Is it the same Kaine that took hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts while Governor of Virginia and didn’t get indicted while Bob M did?”
He was referring to former governor Robert McDonnell, a onetime rising star in the Republican Party, found guilty in 2014 of using his influence to help a local business owner in exchange for gifts and loans. Last month, the US Supreme Court vacated the conviction and ordered a retrial.