Why Kaine is the right choice for Clinton
© Greg Nash

The selection of Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Federal guidance identifying 'go back to where you came from' as discrimination goes viral after Trump comments Trump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing MORE (Va.) as presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton slams Trump rally: 'The time has come again' to fight for democracy Trump blasts minority Democrats, rally crowd chants 'send her back' The Memo: Democrats debate Trump response – 'Being righteous and losing sucks' MORE's running mate has dismayed some liberals and supporters of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie Sanders2020 Democrats react to 'send her back' chants at Trump rally Cardi B posts message of support for Ilhan Omar #IStandWithIlhan trends after crowd at Trump rally chants 'send her back' MORE (Vt.), who were hoping for a more progressive choice such as Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenNew CDC overdose estimates are nothing to celebrate 2020 Democrats react to 'send her back' chants at Trump rally Democratic Houston councilwoman announces Senate bid MORE (Mass.), Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses Hillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei MORE (Ohio), Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenTrump's new labor chief alarms Democrats, unions Al Franken: It's time to start taking Trump 'literally' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs MORE (Minn.) or even Sanders himself. And it's true; Kaine is not as progressive as any of those great people I just mentioned. However, having covered Kaine since early 2005, when I started the grassroots blog Raising Kaine to help elect him governor of Virginia, I can definitely make a strong case for Kaine as Clinton's VP. That's the case, by the way, even though Kaine and I have had our differences, some of them strong ones, over the years.


Purely from an electoral point of view, Kaine is a smart pick. Not that a running mate (other than perhaps Lyndon Johnson in 1960) guarantees that a presidential ticket will win a specific state, but having Kaine on board certainly can't hurt in the key, swing state of Virginia, where Kaine has served as mayor of Richmond, lieutenant governor, governor and U.S. senator — never losing an election, I'd note. Kaine also has roots in the Midwest, having been born in Minnesota and raised in Missouri by a blue-collar, Irish-Scottish family. Kaine's deep, sincere Roman Catholic faith can only be helpful to the ticket as well. In fact, when you look at Kaine's religious, class and ethnic profile, it's not that much different from Vice President Joe BidenJoe Biden2020 Democrats react to 'send her back' chants at Trump rally Can Biden's canceled cancer initiative be salvaged? Biden's health care gaffe shows he's not ready for prime time MORE's, and that pick didn't work out too badly at all.

Second, when it comes firing up the crucial Latino vote for the Democratic ticket, it's hard to think of any non-Latino who could do that job better than Kaine. For starters, Kaine served as a Catholic missionary in Honduras as a young man. Since then, Kaine has maintained such close ties to the Latino community that one prominent Latino leader recently called him an "honorary Latino." Kaine also speaks fluent Spanish, which will serve him well as he campaigns for Clinton in states like Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and many others.

As for his personality and public speaking ability, I've seen Kaine in action up close and from a distance for many years now, and can definitely say that while not the textbook definition of "charismatic," he's not as boring as many people make him out to be. To the contrary, Kaine is a gregarious, extroverted guy — a harmonica player, no less! — who naturally conveys sincerity and enthusiasm. In addressing audiences, he is almost always well received, in part because people — even many Republicans — find him hard to dislike, but also because he's an energetic, articulate and lively speaker, with a good, self-deprecating sense of humor. Kaine can also be serious and substantive, given his deep knowledge of policy and his Harvard Law School intelligence. But even though Kaine's a policy wonk in many ways, he speaks like a normal human being, one you'd probably enjoy sharing a beer with (something I had the chance to do at the Governor's Mansion in Richmond after Kaine was elected).

Kaine's most memorable moment as governor of Virginia undoubtedly came in the aftermath of the horrendous Virginia Tech shootings in April 2007, when he showed great leadership and empathy. In addition to consoling the survivors, family and Virginia Tech community, Kaine created a panel to look at all aspects of the tragedy and to make recommendations. Kaine also issued an executive order to expand background checks for gun purchases in Virginia. Note that Kaine has a long history working to prevent gun violence, which helps explain his 100 percent rating from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and his “F” rating from the National Rifle Association.

On social issues, Kaine is generally a strong progressive, with 100 percent ratings from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America, a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign, and a 92 percent overall lifetime rating from Progressive Punch.

On environmental issues, while I am not 100 percent in sync with Kaine, I would note that Kaine has spoken out strongly about the need to move rapidly away from dirty energy sources and toward a clean energy economy. Recently, Kaine joined Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and others in speaking out against the fossil-fuel-industry-funded climate science "web of denial." In his speech on the Senate floor in mid-July, Kaine called for climate action and denounced what he called the "organized effort by fossil-fuel-funded science denial organizations out there trying to confuse people."

Last, but not least — particularly at a time when Republicans have nominated someone for president who has absolutely no experience in government as an elected official, in foreign policy or just about anything other than starring in reality TV shows and building hotels, casinos and golf courses — Kaine is incredibly qualified for the job of vice president. Having served at every level of government, as well as on the Foreign Relations, Budget and Armed Services committees in the Senate, Kaine knows domestic and foreign policy inside and out. All of which means that Kaine could serve, starting immediately, as vice president, or even as president if that were ever necessary, and nobody would have to worry that he's a deer in the headlines, a Dan Quayle or Sarah Palin or whomever. To the contrary, Kaine would bring a wealth of knowledge and abilities that would be rivaled only by the person he's running with, Hillary Clinton.

Given all that, it seems to me that Clinton made a wise decision in selecting Tim Kaine as her running mate — even if he's not the most superficially "exciting" person in the world, or the most progressive politically.

Feld is founder and editor of the blogs Raising Kaine and Blue Virginia.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.