Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro and Cory Booker are some of the high profile names that were touted as being potential Democratic vice presidential nominees, yet it appears that Hillary Clinton has confounded many by selecting Tim Kaine, a little known Senator from Virginia. While this may be perplexing to many at face value, it’s evident that her decision has not been an ill considered one. Kaine has come close to receiving the VP nomination before, and Barack Obama’s prompt congratulatory call to him is one of many signs that he is well received by much of the Democratic establishment. While this is to his credit, it is also a double edged sword, reasons for which I will explain later.
As the former Governor and current Senator of a swing state, Kaine will play a big role in ameliorating Democratic support in the Midwest, where he grew up. His decision to talk about his Midwestern origins is no doubt a ploy to appeal to undecided voters who may feel that Kaine’s cultural closeness will resonate with them. His home state of Virginia has voted for the Republicans in 3 of the past 5 presidential elections, and with other tight states such as North Carolina and Ohio in close proximity to his Virginia, he will be seen as crucial in ensuring political balance in the area is tipped in his party’s favour.
However, the commonly held view that Kaine is the key to unlocking swing states is not backed up by statistics which seem to suggest that the Vice Presidential pick proves almost ineffectual in helping to win their home state.
The findings below are from polling during the 1960 election between Kennedy and Nixon.
As a final validation of our surprising findings, the ANES data show that only two of 972 respondents, including one northerner and one southerner, said their opinion of Kennedy had ever changed due to selection of the vice president. The kicker: Both voted for Nixon.
Perhaps Tim Kaine can buck this trend, but as a former vice president once said:
My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived – John Adams
While he is praised as being a ‘progressive fighter’ by President Obama, some of Kaine’s actions may suggest the opposite. Although he has just come out against the controversial TPP trade deal, he was in favour of it only a few days earlier, which raises serious doubts about whether Kaine can stop Sanders supporters haemorrhaging the Democratic vote to the Greens. Kaine’s personal opposition to abortion, while unnerving to some in his voter base, should be assuaged by his commitment nonetheless for a woman’s right to choose. Apprehensions also remain about his previous support for NAFTA, a trade deal which was derided for shifting jobs from the USA to neighbouring Mexico. His previous stance against same sex adoption draws parallels to Clinton’s past opposition to gay marriage, and so many would feel that their lack of consistency is an Achilles heel left vulnerable to Republicans.
Despite the misgivings people many have about Kaine, he has undeniably been a sleek and experienced administrator, having never lost an election and boasting a relatively blunder-free tenure free of anything that could severely tarnish him, despite the Republicans’ best efforts to do so.
While his significance may be minimal, I think it is unlikely he will be of any detriment to a campaign whose eyes all rest on the polarising Hillary Clinton.