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What you need to know about Clinton’s VP Pick, Tim Kaine

BY and   July 22, 2016 at 8:38 PM EST  | Updated: Jul 22, 2016 at 10:44 PM
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) wave to the crowd during a campaign rally at Ernst Community Cultural Center in Annandale, Virginia, U.S., July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTSHZ26

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) wave to the crowd during a campaign rally at Ernst Community Cultural Center in Annandale, Virginia, U.S., July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria – RTSHZ26

Hillary Clinton named Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate on Friday, choosing a well-known, moderate Democrat who could help deliver a key swing state.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,”Clinton posted just after 8 p.m. ET on Twitter. She also sent a text message with the announcement to her supporters.

In selecting Kaine, Clinton passed over a shortlist of vice presidential contenders that included Julian Castro, the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, retired Navy Admiral James Stavridis and former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Clinton settled on Kaine after what some considered a “test-run” earlier this month when the pair campaigned together in northern Virginia.

READ MORE: What you need to know about Trump’s VP pick, Mike Pence

The announcement came just a day after the end of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, a move intended to shift attention away from Donald Trump, who accepted the GOP presidential nomination on Thursday night.

The junior Senator from Virginia brings a substantial set of benefits to Clinton’s ticket, although immediately some analysts said Kaine was too safe of a choice.

With that in mind, here’s a list of the pros and cons to Clinton’s selection, and the role Kaine could play in helping shape the general election.

PRO: Swing state

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of selecting Kaine as a running mate is his ability to help Democrats carry his home state of Virginia in November.

The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll finds Clinton leading Trump in Virginia by 9 points. But it’s still considered a swing state, and adding Kaine to the ticket could help Clinton shore up support with Virginia’s Democratic voters, and potentially increase turnout from Republicans and independent voters as well.

Republican candidates carried Virginia in every presidential election between 1968 and 2004. Barack Obama won the state by 2 percent in 2012 and 6 percent in 2008.

With his popularity in the state, Kaine could help keep Virginia in the blue column. A former mayor of Richmond, lieutenant governor, governor and now senator, Kaine has never lost an election in the state.

That popularity would only likely be amplified in the general election.

“There is always state pride” among voters for a home state candidate on a national ticket, said Rick Ridder, an advisor on Bill Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns.

Even if Kaine only boosts the Democratic vote by one percent, Ridder said, that could be enough to put Clinton over the top in a tight race — or at least force Trump to spend more time and resources in Virginia as opposed to other battleground states.

On the downside, Kaine’s selection opens up a Senate seat. Fortunately for Democrats, Virginia currently has a Democratic governor who would appoint a Democratic senator in Kaine’s place until a special election could be held in 2017 to elect a permanent replacement.

PRO: The authenticity factor

With Tim Kaine, “what you see seems to be what’s there,” said University of Virginia history professor Philip Zelikow, echoing an opinion held by many political observers who have followed Kaine’s career.

“I don’t think there is anything about Tim Kaine that’s inauthentic,” said Zelikow, who has been a defense and national security advisor to both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Kaine’s long-time friends agree.

“If you meet Tim Kaine, it doesn’t matter if you are a head of state or an ex-con. He will say ‘Call me Tim.’ And they do,” said Heidi Abbott, a Richmond-based lawyer who has known Kaine for 25 years.

Abbott first met Kaine in a group of friends, all young lawyers. The lawyers would sit together on each other’s porches to talk about issues in the city they wanted to address. He is the same person today, she said, a man with a strong moral compass and desire to help his community.

He also enjoys playing Beatles tunes and the blues on his harmonica in his spare time.

Kaine’s perceived authenticity comes in a contrast to public opinion about Clinton. A recent Washington Post-ABC poll found that only 37 percent of people believe Clinton is honest and trustworthy.

Zelikow added that despite Kaine’s long political career, he has not been involved in a major scandal — another positive in light of the criticism Hillary Clinton has faced over her emails and Benghazi. Kaine did make headlines recently, however, for receiving more than $100,000 in gifts as governor, an issue that could crop up in the campaign.

PRO: Appeal to moderates

Kaine could sway more moderate voters toward Clinton: While he votes with the Democratic Party the vast majority of the time, GovTrack, which tracks voting in Congress, ranked Kaine the 11th most moderate Democratic senator in 2015.

Additionally, if Kaine’s track record in Virginia — which currently has a Republican-controlled legislature and a Democratic governor — is any indication, he can appeal to and work with people on both sides of the aisle.

“He’s done a good job straddling the different divides,” Zelikow said.

Kaine’s stance on abortion is a good example of his moderate approach. He personally opposes abortion, a view that has earned him criticism from liberal Democrats.

But he has also opposed calls to scale back Roe v. Wade. Instead, he has said the focus should be on reducing unintended pregnancies.

CON: He’s an insider

Kaine has been in politics since he was elected to the Richmond City Council in 1994, a potential liability in a year where voters have gravitated toward outsider candidates like Trump.

The fact that Kaine spent his entire political career representing a state that borders Washington, D.C., won’t help with voters angry with establishment politicians.

“He’s a hop, skip and a jump from the Beltway,” said Ridder, who is based in Colorado. “Can you find anybody who is more insider than Tim Kaine?”

Nevertheless, Clinton’s decision to go with a veteran politician should not come as a surprise. Clinton made it clear she planned to pick a vice-presidential candidate who had the experience to be president.

CON: He doesn’t excite progressives

After a long-fought Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton needs to win over Bernie Sanders supporters. Tim Kaine is not particularly useful when it comes to that goal.

“Many of us were waiting for Hillary Clinton to excite the base of voters who supported Bernie Sanders,” People for Bernie co-founder Charles Lenchner said. “Having Tim Kaine as vice president doesn’t move that needle.”

Lenchner, who has not committed to voting for Clinton in the fall, said he would much rather have seen someone like Sen. Elizabeth Warren on the ticket.

“By choosing someone who is more centrist than she is, [Clinton] is making a signal that the gains we seek inside the party are not yet complete,” he said. “We still have a lot to fight for.”

CON: He’s a white man

Of course, Hillary Clinton’s ticket would be historic no matter who she chose as her vice president. But some Democrats were hoping for more diversity — an all-female ticket or a Hispanic running mate like HUD Secretary Julian Castro or Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez.

Instead Kaine, a white man, continues the status quo.

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