Let me just start by making clear that I think Jeff Schapiro rocks; an excellent writer and a sharp observer of the Virginia political scene, with decades of experience and a vast store of knowledge and insight into politics in the “Odd Dominion.” Today’s column, however, while containing interesting insights, no doubt, unfortunately isn’t just wrong, but 180-degrees off the mark, in its core argument about who Hillary Clinton should pick as her running mate this summer/fall. First, here’s Schapiro’s core argument.
There are many reasons why Clinton might select Kaine. There’s one reason Clinton may not have to: Donald Trump, the favorite for the Republican nomination.
Early polls suggest that Clinton — against Trump or Ted Cruz — carries Virginia, one of seven battleground states.
If Virginia is likely to hold for Democrats — the state, with 13 electoral votes, went blue in 2008 and 2012, ending a four-decade Republican presidential win streak — Clinton could focus on other swing states.
With all due respect to Jeff Schapiro…no. No. No. No. No. And did I mention “no?” LOL
In fact, Schapiro’s argument is exactly backwards. To the contrary, if Trump’s the GOP nominee and Clinton is all but guaranteed to win the White House, then there’s absolutely no reason for her to worry about winning specific states (not that VP candidates have any particular track record of carrying specific states anyway; note that Obama picked Biden from deep-blue Delaware, NOT Kaine from purple Virginia, in 2008; also note that Paul Ryan did NOT lead to Mitt Romney carrying Wisconsin in 2012, nor did Lloyd Bentsen result in Michael Dukakis carrying Texas in 1988, nor did Jack Kemp carry New York for Bob Dole in 1996, etc.).
More broadly, if the Republicans have decided to go kamikaze and lose the White House in a blaze of…well, Trumpian idiocy, bigotry, shame and anti-Amercan authoritarianism in their case…then the LAST thing Hillary Clinton will need to worry about is finely calibrating her VP choice in order to pick off a state (erroneous reasoning regardless, as I explained above). To the contrary, this scenario would constitute the opposite of what Schapiro’s arguing, by allowing Clinton to focus on who would be the strongest partner for her in a President Hillary Clinton administration, who would bring the most to the table in getting her agenda through Congress, and who would be the best qualified to serve “a heartbeat away” from the presidency. On all those counts, Tim Kaine appears to be a super-strong choice, with experience at all levels of government, on a wide array of topics from domestic policy to foreign policy and national security, to a great deal of political savvy and connections across the country.
But let’s even say that Clinton wants someone who can help her win the White House, or possibly run up the score in order to help elect more Democrats to Congress and (hopefully) take back the House and Senate. As DNC member and Virginian Frank Leone points out, “But Kaine doesn’t just help Clinton in VA; helps everywhere and would be quality VP.” Exactly. For starters, remember that Kaine is fluent in Spanish, has close ties to the Latino community (starting in his days as a Catholic missionary in Honduras; heck, former Arlington County Board member and Latino rights activist Walter Tejada recently called Kaine an “honorary Latino”). In addition, as I noted, Kaine is Roman Catholic, Scots-Irish with roots in the Midwest (born in Minnesota, grew up in Kansas City, MO). And Kaine is immensely qualified to be VP — and president, for that matter — based on his impressive political and non-political resume of accomplishments. Finally, Kaine is a strong speaker and debater, someone who can more than hold his own on the national stage. In short, Kaine would make a top-notch running mate for Clinton.
As for Schapiro’s argument that Clinton could focus on other key, swing states by picking someone as her running mate from, let’s say, Ohio? First off, again, Democrats would be strongly favored to win Ohio and other states in the case of a Trump nomination. Second, again, there’s no historical evidence in recent decades that a VP pick automatically carries their home state for the ticket. Third, Kaine could help Democrats carry states with large Latino populations, such as Arizona, while still carrying Ohio and other Midwestern states. Not sure how any other running mate could top that combination.
Finally, I’ll concede to Schapiro on one point: that if Kaine resigns his Senate seat to be VP, that makes an already non-automatic seat to hold in 2018 even tougher for Democrats. Of course, by that reasoning, Clinton shouldn’t pick a U.S. Senator as running mate from almost any purple, swing state, since that could endanger that Senate seat. But that directly contradicts Schapiro’s hint at picking someone from Ohio (e.g., Sen. Sherrod Brown?), since the same challenge would exist there as in Virginia.
Anyway, I’m not saying that Clinton will pick Kaine as her running mate, or even that she necessarily should (e.g., I remain intrigued by an Elizabeth Warren pick for VP). And we still don’t know who the Republicans will nominate, although certainly (neo-fascist bigot) Trump is currently in the drivers seat. My main point is that I think Jeff Schapiro’s argument is not correct, in fact is almost completely backwards. And no, Mr. Schapiro, Clinton should NOT call Mark Warner! LOL