It’s been clear since Obama’s reelection that Hillary Clinton would run for the White House in 2016, and the speculation over her running mate has been going on almost as long. For instance, in May 2014 I penned the piece “Kaine Is Able, and Warner Is Too,” suggesting that both Virginia senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner , would be strong VP candidates. It’s no surprise that both have now appeared on the New York Times short list. After considering the pros and cons of each person, I feel confident predicting that Clinton/Kaine will be the Democrats’ 2016 presidential ticket.
Here are the five reasons upon which that prediction is based.
1. Tim Kaine is the safest choice
With Donald Trump edging closer to becoming the Republican presidential nominee, a Clinton-vs.-Trump general-election campaign is on track to be the most brutal in modern history. As a counterbalance, Mrs. Clinton will pick a safe, boring, dependable running mate — qualified to be president, ready to go from Day 1, and needing no hand-holding. Senator Kaine fits that description because he is ready for prime time, media-savvy, knowledgeable, respected, experienced, and unlikely to generate any personal or professional controversy. Selecting Kaine would free Clinton to focus on fighting Trump with the least amount of hassle from her running mate, in addition to numerous assets that Kaine brings to the ticket.
2. His résumé is perfect for 2016 and beyond
Besides being a low-profile, non-controversial, moderate Democrat, Kaine has executive experience, having served as governor of Virginia from January 2006 to January 2010. (Virginia law allows governors only one four-year term.) Before that, Kaine was lieutenant governor from January 2002 to January 2006.
But here is why Kaine towers over the rest of Hillary’s VP short list: While Kaine was governor of Virginia, president-elect Obama appointed him chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Kaine held that position from January 21, 2009, to April 5, 2011, and emerged unscathed even though Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives during Kaine’s reign. (President Obama’s policies took the hit, and rightly so.)
As DNC chairman, Kaine gained tremendous media exposure along with national campaigning and fundraising experience. In 2016, all that experience adds up to one of Kaine’s greatest assets — his established relationships with national, state, and local party leaders and, most important, the donor class. Kaine, as a known quantity within the Democratic party, is uniquely positioned to help unite the party after a contentious primary. Furthermore, because he is considered a moderate, Kaine could help swing Hillary back from the Bernie-left to the center-left.
Kaine was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012 and is up for reelection in 2018. If Clinton loses, Kaine will head back to the Senate as the 2020 presidential front-runner. And if Clinton is elected president but in 2020 forgoes a second term due to age or health reasons, then Kaine will be ready to step up to the plate.
3. His geographic and personal story has party-base and general appeal
Kaine represents the swing state of Virginia, and its 13 electoral votes are considered a must-win for Republicans. Democrats could lose Virginia and still easily reach the 270 needed to win, but with Kaine on the ticket, Virginia is more likely to remain blue — its color in 2008 and 2012.
In an election year in which winning the Hispanic vote will be a key to victory, Kaine is fluent in Spanish. He learned the language working as a Catholic missionary in Honduras while taking a break from Harvard Law School. The potential for Democratic general-election identity-group hoopla far outweighs the fact that Kaine is a 58-year-old white male. If the angry Left cries “white privilege,” Kaine will remind them that his father was a welder who owned a small ironworking shop in the Kansas City, Mo., area, where Kaine was raised after being born in St. Paul, Minn.
If blue-collar roots do not placate the Left, perhaps this will: According to Wikipedia, “Kaine practiced law in Richmond for 17 years, specializing in representing people who had been denied housing opportunities because of their race or disability.”
With Kaine as her running mate, Hillary has many Democratic-party bases covered.
4. In 2014 Kaine played the Clinton loyalty card, overcompensating for 2008
A huge problem that Kaine has tried to overcome is proving loyalty to the Clintons. It started in February of 2007, when, as governor of Virginia, Kaine became the first governor outside of Illinois to endorse Senator Barack Obama for president. Because of his early endorsement, Kaine was on Obama’s VP short list in 2008. But in 2008 Obama needed a running mate with more experience than Kaine had at the time. As a consolation prize, Obama appointed Kaine to be DNC chairman. But in May of 2014, Kaine wasted no time endorsing Hillary for president in 2016. Obviously he was trying to compensate for dissing her in 2008, and so far it looks like he has succeeded.
5. Kaine can handle the Bill Clinton problem
Whoever the VP nominee may be, that person, if elected, will have an issue with Bill Clinton undermining the vice president’s power. Here is how the New York Times reported this problem for those on Hillary’s short list:
Advisers said that in the current search, Mrs. Clinton wants a running mate who would accept and appreciate that Mr. Clinton, as a former president, would offer expertise and guidance — and perhaps play a formal role on specific issues — if she were president.
Translation: Warning to VP short list — the “Big Dog” will be free to roam, jump on your desk, and pee on your papers.
But compared with some others on the Times short list, Kaine is a seasoned political pro more likely to “accept and appreciate” Bill and less likely to be intimidated when the former president “offers expertise and guidance.”
Finally, when the Clintons pick Hillary’s running mate, they will remember that old adage of VP selection: “First, do no harm.” A Clinton/Kaine ticket would emerge ready to battle a new, powerful, unpredictable guerrilla force with no rules or boundaries.
Cross-posted at National Review Online