Tim Kaine is as vanilla middle as you can get. — Robert Reich 7/24/2016
In Robert Reich’s op-ed on Sunday, he questioned whether Hillary Clinton ‘got it’ when it came to selecting Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) as her running mate against the Trump/Pence ticket, accusing her of fundamentally ignoring the progressive nature of this year’s primary.
Clinton was in a terrific position of choice, already knowing the opposition’s lineup before her choice was formalized — she could have chosen anyone from any part of the Democratic spectrum.
But unlike Reich’s analysis, Clinton made the right call for many reasons — ones that aren’t fully being discussed in the media.
‘Vanilla Middle’ Is In The Recipe To Win
The recipe to win any political race at this point in political history is to consolidate the base, then win over the center.
Clinton is in a position of simply conceding that she’s going to lose a number of Bernie Sanders supporters, even with the best convention ever.
Some will stay home and not vote, some will defect (if history tells us anything, in that order).
Kaine, according to Ballotpedia, has been ranked as the 35th least liberal Democrat, with an overall voting record that displays center-left moderate ideals.
And while departing from several of Clinton’s pet campaigning issues, he is able to consolidate a center bloc of voters — ones necessary to win over any plurality battle.
Location, Location, Location
Not the first rule of politics, unlike real estate, but pretty near the top of the list.
With this election almost certainly being won by plurality, Clinton needs a buttress in Virginia — a state that is absolutely critical if the ‘Holy Trinity’ swing states are swept by opponents (Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio).
If these three states are lost, Virginia and North Carolina are must wins for any permutation of victory (as the toss-up map exists today).
It is almost considered a political axiom that a candidate and their VP tap must win their home states for victory — and Kaine’s overall popularity in Virginia is already strong.
Kaine won his 2012 Senate race by a hefty 6-point margin, a large margin in an election with 3.8 million votes cast.
Governor McAuliffe (D-Va.) becomes an incredible power broker if the Clinton/Kaine ticket wins.
Virginia, like 36 other states, allows the governor to appoint replacements to fill Senate vacancies.
With the Democrats facing a better political map in the Senate than the Republicans had in 2014, Clinton knows she must preserve all efforts to retake the Senate.
Kaine does not come up for re-election until 2018, making his seat a ‘locked-in’ status for the Democrats as they plan to re-take the Senate.
Plurality Is The Name Of The Game
Like physicians, ‘Do no harm,’ is at the top of the list politically when it comes to running mates.
You don’t want a carbon copy of yourself, you don’t want a candidate who is further to the political extreme than you, and you don’t want a candidate from a state you’ll probably win regardless of choice.
When you run as the nominee, it is your platform that is being advanced — and while the party gives its national guidance, you live and die by what ideals you decide to focus on.
Right now, ‘other’ or ‘undecided’ are still the two most common choices polls are employing outside of the major party candidates. The media isn’t taking the threats from Johnson and Stein seriously.
Right now, 'other' or 'undecided' are still the two most common choices polls are employing outside of the major party candidates.
But even without the minor party data, we can get a clear picture from a survey of all state’s polls — one thing is absolutely certain, 2016 will be won by a non-majority plurality.
As a federal republic, the state contests are all that matters — and the picture is currently, just by looking at these polls, that Trump/Pence is getting more defections than Clinton/Kaine.
If Clinton can steal away moderate Republicans, ones against Trump, but not exactly keen on the platforms of the Green or Libertarian Parties, she can make incredible gains in the polls and eventually at the ballot box.
While Reich emphatically declared the political middle dead, the polls don’t seem to show this. Yes, there are those who are happily embracing the far-left Green Party or the far-right Libertarians, but there are those who want a safer ‘middle’ answer.
When examining all of the candidates, Clinton’s VP tap is the only with ‘middle appeal.’
The importance of this is yet to be seen, and who knows — perhaps the middle is dead.
But as far as strategy goes, this at least makes sense.
The Hispanic and Latino Vote
Kaine is a fluent Spanish-speaker, giving him an edge in a very divisive contest that has brought race, immigration, and at times insults into the campaigning rhetoric.
This could be a key asset on the campaign trail and in multi-media advertisements.
In traditional TV ad spots, this could be both cost effective and have excellent reach in the targeted demographics. And stations like Univision have no love for Donald Trump, after dropping his pageants for disparaging remarks — and then getting sued for it.
Yes, the Spanish-speaking airwaves might in fact be a real prize for the Clinton ticket by picking a Spanish-speaker adding a personal face of the campaign to the advertising.
And while Univision’s polling seems to indicate that Spanish-speaking candidates don’t matter, it definitely doesn’t hurt the ticket’s already overwhelming lead among the bloc.
Impeccable Campaigning Experience, Low Baggage, And General Likability
Kaine isn’t exactly filling the traditional roll of the vice-president — the roll of the attack dog.
Trump openly admitted that he wanted an attack dog VP tap, claiming he needed protection because, ‘I’m getting attacked from all sides.’
But two attack dogs on the same ticket — what’s the answer to that?
A likable candidate, with unimpeachable political and campaigning experience (Kaine has never lost a race) who can withstand any attack directed toward them.
History tells us that negative campaigning simply doesn’t work out well for Democrats. While it has been a staple of Republican campaigning for years, the Democrats do best when they stick to issues, avoid character battles, and largely focus on how their plans and ideas will help America.
And if they can stay on message and target, they are more likely to pick up the independent, swing, defection, and center voters.
The Worst Case Scenario — No One Reaching 270 Electoral Votes
It could happen. It’s unlikely, but it could — even though it’s never happened before, where the president and vice-president had to be chosen by Congress.
If the U.S. House and Senate have to choose the president and vice-president (respectively), there’s going to be political jockeying like we’ve never seen.
Even with the Republicans controlling both the House and Senate, it’s not a sure thing that they’d ‘rubber stamp’ a Trump/Pence ticket.
Trump has too many political enemies within his own party, it’s unlikely to see political lock-step — even more unlikely, though, would be to see a minor party win in the Congress.
Instead, we’d probably see some form of brokered deal — with nobody being totally happy — possibly Trump/Kaine, less likely would be Hillary/Pence.
Or we could in fact see party unity with Trump/Pence being selected regardless of the angst some members openly display — anything is possible when uncharted political territory is reached.
The Middle Isn’t Dead — It’s Where Statesmanship Lives
The political climate of America is becoming so polarized that we’ve forgotten what true statesmanship really is — compromise, working with others, and settling for less-than-perfect legislation for the betterment of the nation.
The political extremes, are simply not going to be able to do much as president other than write executive orders and nominate judges.
But a ticket with a person willing to work with others, as Kaine has proven to do, has the possibility of breaking down some of this gridlock — especially in his possible role as president of the Senate.
The next few months, along with the upcoming Democratic Convention, will make it completely apparent if Clinton made the right move by selecting Kaine.
Because while this year was marked by progressiveness within the party, at the national level campaigning in the middle has been a proven recipe for the Democrats — maybe even in 2016.