As expected, Hillary Clinton chose Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) to be her running mate in the presidential election. The move comes late in the day, perhaps as a result of the terror attack in Germany. The lack of drama and reliance on a safe choice comes just as Democrats prepare to kick off their national convention in Philadelphia:
Hillary Clinton named Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia to be her running mate Friday, according to a senior campaign official, selecting a battleground state politician with working-class roots and a fluency in Spanish, traits that she believes can bolster her chances to defeat Donald J. Trump in November.
Mrs. Clinton’s choice came after her advisers spent months poring over potential vice-presidential candidates who could lift the Democratic ticket in an unpredictable race against Mr. Trump.
As the New York Times’ Amy Chozick notes, Team Hillary doesn’t see the need to roll the dice:
Mrs. Clinton had entertained more daring choices. She considered Thomas E. Perez, the secretary of labor, who would have been the first Hispanic on a major party ticket; Senator Cory Booker, of New Jersey, who would have been the first African-American to seek the vice presidency; and Adm. James G. Stavridis, a retired four-star Navy admiral who served as the supreme allied commander at NATO, but had never held elected office.
In the end, Mrs. Clinton, who told PBS she is “afflicted with the responsibility gene,” avoided taking a chance with a less experienced vice-presidential candidate and felt no political need to push the historic nature of her candidacy by adding another woman or a minority to the ticket.
Some of those names would have made sense had Republicans nominated a younger and arguably more likable nominee. Had Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Scott Walker topped the ticket, then Perez or Booker might have been needed to compete in those areas. Chozick interestingly leaves out Julian Castro, who was also widely seen as a veepstakes shortlister, but mainly because of his own obvious ambition for the role. Castro would have definitely been a roll-of-the-dice choice, given his thin resumé and his latest brush with the Hatch Act.
Kaine makes plenty of sense even apart from the safe-choice quality of the decision. Kaine comes from a key swing state (Virginia) and remains popular there. He has gubernatorial experience as well as time on Capitol Hill, plus he’s a former DNC chair who knows the right people. He’s perceived as somewhat more moderate than Hillary herself (whether or not it’s actually true), which allows the ticket to have some appeal to the middle. Plus, even though Kaine gets knocked for being boring, he’s a frequent guest on talking-head shows and will be a familiar face to many voters.
What this does say is that Hillary and her team are pretty convinced that this is her election to lose, and that they don’t need to do anything to beat Trump except not screw up. That’s certainly the conventional wisdom based on traditional models, but as I argued earlier today, this isn’t a traditional cycle. At the very least, though, raising Kaine is almost certainly not going to be a gamble.
Update: Hugh Hewitt sees Kaine’s fluency in Spanish as his biggest asset:
— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) July 23, 2016
Eh, I don’t think Team Hillary is afraid of losing share among Hispanic voters. But this makes it clear that they’re not worried about losing votes from the progressive wing of the party, either.