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Tim Kaine Takes His Turn Trying Out as Clinton's VP

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Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., speaks at a Clinton rally in Annandale on Thursday.  Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., speaks at a Clinton rally in Annandale on Thursday. Andrew Harnik/AP

Donald Trump’s vice-presidential search is coming to an end. But Hillary Clinton is still holding auditions.

The presumptive Democratic nominee appeared Thursday in Annandale, Virginia with one of her alleged top picks, Senator Tim Kaine, where he introduced her at a community-college rally. Kaine is often characterized as a “safe” choice, a politician with an impressive resumé who can help Clinton reinforce the notion that Democrats offer a more sensible ticket than Republicans.

Thursday represented an early test of their chemistry and, as Reuters put it, whether Kaine can “fire up a crowd.” But on that latter goal, Kaine had it relatively easy. The attendees were already pumped for Clinton when they walked in the room. “Are we ready for Hillary?” he asked early in his remarks, a crowd-friendly line he grabbed from one of her campaign slogans. When cheers and chants greeted his question, he remarked, “I think that’s a yes.”

Kaine isn’t nearly as charismatic as another of Clinton’s recent rally companions, Barack Obama, who overshadowed his former secretary of state in North Carolina last week. When Clinton took over for Kaine Thursday afternoon, she seemed the more comfortable campaigner. But the senator nevertheless has his advantages. Here’s Reuters again:

With a resume that includes a stint as a missionary in Honduras before becoming a civil rights lawyer, Kaine could help Clinton check a lot of boxes in the list of requirements for a running mate.

Fluent in Spanish, he could build on her efforts to reach out to Latino voters. Kaine is also affable, savvy about foreign policy and has executive experience as a former governor of Virginia and a former mayor of Richmond, the state's capital.

And as a Virginian, Kaine could help Clinton win a battleground state in the Nov. 8 race against Republican Donald Trump.

Kaine highlighted his language skills as he talked about Clinton at the rally, explaining that to say one is “ready for Hillary” differs in meaning across languages. In Spanish, the phrase is: Estamos listos para Hillary. “When I lived in Honduras, the best compliment you could pay to someone was not to say they were inteligente. … It was not to say that they were guapo or guapa, beautiful. It was not to say that they were amable, friendly. It was to say that they were listo, to say that they were ready,” Kaine said. “Because in Spanish, in Honduras, what ‘ready’ means is more than just on time. It means well-prepared, bien hecho. It means you're ready to get on the battlefield, you're ready to fight. You're somebody that can be counted on. And so [we] were ready for Hillary because Hillary's ready for us. Hillary's ready for Virginia. Hillary's ready to be president.”

Another of Kaine’s tasks as a vice-presidential candidate would be to take on Trump. While on Thursday he couldn’t match the fieriness of his fellow senator and Clinton surrogate Elizabeth Warren, he showed he was willing to try. Kaine characterized Trump as a “me-first” candidate who “trash talks” his fellow Americans, including women and Latinos. “You want the trash talker?” Kaine asked. “What about the bridge builder?”

Clinton is expected to reveal her running mate after the Republican National Convention. So even if Kaine didn’t blow the roof off at the rally, he and his allies still have time to make his case. If recent reports are to be trusted, he certainly has competition.

Nora Kelly

Nora Kelly is a staff correspondent at National Journal. She previously worked at Science and Philadelphia magazine. Nora attended the University of Delaware and served as the executive editor of The Review, the independent student newspaper. She is a native of New Jersey.

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