Kaine plays attack dog for Clinton amid trade protests
© Greg Nash

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense: Government funding bill butts up against deadline | Pentagon reports eighth military COVID-19 death | Trump, Pentagon collide over anti-diversity training push Voters split on whether Trump, Biden will win first debate: poll New Monmouth poll finds Biden with 6-point lead MORE’s running mate, Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineFears grow of chaotic election Trump taps Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court, setting up confirmation sprint Supreme Court fight pushes Senate toward brink MORE, ripped into GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump Wednesday night during his first turn under the national spotlight before an audience that was not entirely friendly. 

 

Kaine — whose low-key nature had raised questions about whether he could be an attack dog for Clinton's campaign — knocked Trump on nearly every major controversial comment or scandal since the brash businessman launched his presidential bid. 

 

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"Our nation is too great to put in the hands of slick-talking, empty-promising, self-promoting, one-man wrecking crew," the Virginia senator said from the Democratic National Convention stage in Philadelphia hours after he locked down the party's vice presidential nomination. 

 

Throughout the speech, Kaine contended with supporters of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPresident Trump faces Herculean task in first debate The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Trump's tax return bombshell New Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments MORE (I-Vt.), who opposed his nomination. They held up anti-Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) signs and at times interrupted his speech. 

 

Initially, the signs and chants seemed to catch Kaine off guard, though he became more comfortable in his address as he went on — and as he railed against Trump.

 

Referring to Trump's refusal to release his tax returns because he's currently being audited, Kaine blasted Trump, asking, "Donald, what are you hiding? 

 

"Does anyone believe that Donald Trump's been paying his fair share of taxes? Do you believe he ought to release those tax returns like every other presidential candidate in modern history?" he asked to thunderous applause and yells of "no" from delegates. 

 

Kaine also raised questions about Trump's donations to charity and the ongoing lawsuits against Trump University, arguing in both cases that charities and students "got stiffed." 

 

The Clinton campaign was quick to tout Kaine's handling of his attack dog role to supporters, blasting out in an email that he "took on Donald Trump's most overused and false promise: 'Believe me.' " 

 

Kaine's speech comes as the 58-year-old senator has been at the center of a controversial push by supporters of Sanders to get him kicked off the Democratic ticket. 

 

The Bernie Delegates Network — which encompasses more than 1,200 delegates — was ultimately thwarted in its effort to field a challenger to Kaine, something backers blamed on slow movement by the party. 

 

Kaine spoke to his Sanders skeptics during his speech, praising Sanders as a "great leader." 

 

"I work on the Budget Committee with Bernie Sanders ... fighting for investments in education, healthcare, research and transportation," he said. 

 

He also sought to tie the Clinton-Kaine ticket to Sanders and larger Democratic values, saying, "We share this belief. Do all the good you can. 

 

"That's what I'm about. That's what you're about. That's what Bernie Sanders is about," he added. 

 

But Kaine's speech was repeatedly interrupted by protest and chants, with a handful of states shouting, "Hey hey, ho ho, TPP has got to go." 

 

Karen Bernal, a California Democrat, had warned earlier Wednesday that boos or chants of protest were likely during Kaine's speech. Clinton's vice presidential selection, she said, was the latest of a  "litany of grievances" for progressive voters. 

 

California delegates held up anti-TPP signs but largely stayed silent. Clinton backers also actively tried to drown out any protests with cheers. 

 

Kaine's position on abortion and positive comments about the TPP have raised skepticism from liberal voters about whether picking the southern Democrat would move the ticket further to the middle. 

 

Unlike Vice President Biden, who commanded the convention's attention earlier Wednesday, Kaine never appeared fully in control, though he quickly got more comfortable. 

 

When Sanders supporters began to chant "Bernie," Kaine quickly turned the interruption into an ad-libbed attack on Trump. 

 

"We all should feel the Bern, and we should all not want to get burned by the other guy," he said. 

 

Television cameras showed Sanders and his wife, Jane Sanders, laughing and cheering the line.

 

Democrats have pushed a message of unity so far during the convention, arguing Sanders supporters should unite with him to help take on Trump in the November election. 

 

Convention staffers were passing out "together stronger" signs for delegates to use during Kaine's speech to help enforce that message. 

 

But Republicans have rushed to highlight liberal misgivings about Kaine, arguing his pick won't do anything to help Clinton satisfy her base. 

 

Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said Kaine's speech would be viewed as a message for how much focus Clinton will put on trade and a "bold economic populist agenda." 

 

"Tim Kaine's conventions speech isn't about Tim Kaine. The vice president is a proxy for how the future president will govern," he told The Hill. "Hearing Tim Kaine's story is less important — especially for progressives — than him keeping the volume high on progressive issues." 

 

Kaine's speech comes less than a week after Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, named him as her running mate. Though he's been a crucial player in Democratic politics for years — chairing the Democratic National Committee and serving for four years as the governor of Virginia — he's largely flown under the national radar. 

 

A recently released CNN poll found that nearly half of voters didn't know enough about Kaine to have an opinion. Kaine outlined his rise through politics and gave a shoutout to his wife, Anne, and her parents. 

 

A roughly three-and-a-half-minute video played up Kaine's "middle-class roots" and qualities that supporters say make him an asset to the campaign: He speaks Spanish, works with Republicans, comes from a battleground state and is low-key. 

 

Kaine, touting his bipartisan credentials, also briefly used the speech to reach out to Republicans who may be wary of Trump's brash nature. Kaine's moderate colleagues have touted him for months as a pick that could help win over independent voters. 

 

"Any party who would nominate Donald Trump for president has moved too far away from his party of Lincoln," he said. "If any of you are looking for that party of Lincoln, we've got a home for you right here in the Democratic Party."