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How Does Tim Kaine Stack Up in the Hillary Clinton Running Mate Contest?


I’ve been thinking about this question for a while now, but the recent comments by Ben “Not Larry Sabato” Tribbett on the John Fredericks radio show (see below) about Tim Kaine likely being Hillary Clinton’s pick for running mate (Ben: “I think that she’s going to pick an establishment person…I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it’s Tim Kaine; she’s going to try to play it very safe”) motivated me to weigh in now. Until recently, I agreed strongly with Ben, but that might be changing a bit now, given the increasingly heated Democratic primary contest. Here are the top 10 most likely running mates for Hillary Clinton, according to PredictIt (their latest trading price is in parentheses), and key pros and cons for each. Enjoy. 🙂

Julian Castro (18 cents)
Pros: Young, Latino, impressive bio, well-received keynote address at the 2012 Democrat National Convention.
Cons: See today’s Politico story, “Progressive groups target Julián Castro,” about how and why “a coalition of groups — many of them backers of the Vermont senator — are launching a preemptive strike against Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, aimed at disqualifying him from consideration to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate.” Obviously, if Clinton’s goal is to unite and fire up progressives around her candidacy, that’s not good news. Other than that, Castro has very little national experience, having only been Secretary of Housing and Urban Development since July 28, 2014 (prior to that, he was Mayor of San Antonio). Finally, to the extent you pick a running mate to help win a particular state, being from red-trending-purple Texas probably isn’t an argument in Castro’s favor.

Tom Perez (16 cents)
Pros: Latino, extremely impressive bio, reportedly has “more credibility with committed progressives – who measure politicians by their battle scars – than almost anyone else around;” very popular with organized labor; highly respected.
Cons: Definitely doesn’t help with a purple state, as he lives in Takoma Park, Maryland. Not very well known.

Tim Kaine (14 cents)
Pros: To the extent a running mate can help the ticket carry a state, Virginia — where Kaine has served as Lt. Governor, Governor and US Senator — would certainly be a nice one to lock down for the Democratic 2016 ticket. Kaine is fluent in Spanish, having worked as a Catholic missionary in Honduras as a young man, and was recently called an “honorary Latino” by former Arlington County Board member and Latino activist Walter Tejada. Was thoroughly “vetted” for VP by the Obama team in 2008. With his extensive domestic and national security/foreign policy experience, Kaine is also ready — more than just about anyone on this list, I’d argue — to actually be president, if it ever came to that.
Cons: If Clinton’s concern is that she needs to bring Sanders’ supporters enthusiastically back into the fold, I’m not sure Kaine does the trick, as he’s not known as a super-progressive, but more of a centrist Democrat (although I’d say he’s been far more progressive in the US Senate than he was as governor). Not young or flashy, more substantive and wonky (no doubt Kaine’s a brilliant guy), and of course he’s not an ethnic or racial minority, if that’s what Clinton is looking for.  A potentially big downside would be that Democrats could lose this Senate seat in 2018, possibly to someone like Barbara Comstock (shuddddderrrrr).

Elizabeth Warren (12 cents)
Pros: If Clinton’s goal is to really fire up Sanders supporters and tap into populist energy out there, it’s hard to imagine anyone doing that – with the possible exception of Sanders himself – than Eilzabeth Warren.
Cons: Obviously, Clinton doesn’t need Warren to help carry Massachusetts or any specific state. Not sure if there’s much risk of Dems losing Warren’s US Senate seat, but Scott Brown did win a special election in this deep-blue state after Ted Kennedy dies, so you never know. Would having two women on the ticket be “too much” for some people (personally, i’m all for it!)? Other than that, I really can’t think of any downsides to Warren, other than that she might overshadow Clinton and/or not be on the same page politically in some ways? Finally, would Warren want to be Clinton’s running mate? Not sure.

Bernie Sanders (10 cents)
Pros: Same reasoning as for Warren, pretty much.
Cons: Would Sanders even be interested? After a rough primary, in which Sanders has taken some tough shots at Clinton, would SHE be interested? To me, Warren brings everything Sanders does, but would be a better option.

Sherrod Brown (18 cents)
Pros: From the crucial swing state of Ohio; strongly progressive; populist; a great deal of experience; super smart and qualified.
Cons: Democrats would lose this US Senate seat, at least for a while (since Gov. Kasich would appoint his replacement), if Brown vacates it to become VP. Not sure if he’d excite Sanders supporters as much as Sanders himself or Warren would do.

Al Franken (7 cents)
Pros: Certainly a strong progressive and super-smart, also from the battleground Midwest. Other than that, I’m not sure I get this one. According to this Politico article: “Trump’s presence demands new rhetorical weaponry. As Trump himself might say, Franken’s ‘classy’ and ‘elegant’ wit is just what the ticket needs to avoid the kind of brawl that drags everyone down to Trump’s level. Clinton will want to stay above the fray, and Franken can provide the buffer.”
Cons: No major ones that I can think of, although again, I’m not sure he’d excite Sanders supporters as much as Sanders or Warren would.

Cory Booker (5 cents)
Pros: Relatively young, charismatic, African American, super smart.
Cons: Clinton definitely doesn’t need him to help carry New Jersey. More of an economic centrist than a progressive and/or populist; not sure if that’s what Clinton wants or needs in her running mate this year, given the mood in the country.

Bottom line: If, after she clinches the Democratic nomination and following the GOP convention, Clinton feels confident that she’s going to win easily, then she would probably go with what Ben Tribbett says — a safe, solid and HIGHLY qualified (if not super-populist/progressive) pick like Tim Kaine. If, on the other hand, Clinton’s team believes it needs to fire up young people and others who have been drawn to Bernie Sanders’ populist, “democratic Socialist” message, then she might be more inclined to go with Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, or even Bernie Sanders himself (although personally, I just don’t see that happening). What do you think?


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