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Hillary Clinton Picks Her VP Nominee: Who Is Tim Kaine?

Jul 23, 2016
Originally published on July 23, 2016 10:18 pm
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Hillary Clinton has chosen Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia to be her vice presidential running mate. Senator Kaine is a moderate from a political swing state who's made the shortlist before. NPR's Ailsa Chang has this profile.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Up until now, the biggest knock against Tim Kaine as a VP pick was that he's just kind of, well, boring. A few weeks ago, NBC's Chuck Todd read out loud to Kaine exactly what people in politics think of him.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

CHUCK TODD: He's not anybody's idea of exploding volcano of charisma.

TIM KAINE: (Laughter).

TODD: Are these critics or compliments to you?

KAINE: I mean, they're true. I am boring, but, you know, boring is the fastest growing demographic in this country.

CHANG: At least, that's what Hillary Clinton is hoping - that there will be something for everyone to like about self-deprecating, affable Tim Kaine. He is a moderate in a swing state who has never lost an election. He also brings executive experience as a former mayor of Richmond and governor of Virginia.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: At least 30 people believed to be killed on the campus of Virginia Tech University.

CHANG: It was as governor that Kaine first found himself in the national spotlight. After the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007, he scrambled home early from a trip to Asia to help his state heal. The devout Catholic leaned on his faith for the right words.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

KAINE: Losing a son, losing a daughter, a brother, a sister, losing a close friend - it can go beyond grief to isolation and feeling despair. Those haunting words that were uttered on a hill, on Calvary - my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Despair is a natural emotion.

CHANG: Faith has been a driving force for Kaine, the son of a welder who owned an iron working shop in Kansas City. He took time off from Harvard Law School to be a missionary in Honduras, where he came face-to-face with the starkest poverty. It was also where Kaine learned Spanish.

(SOUNDBITE OF SENATE HEARING)

KAINE: (Speaking Spanish).

CHANG: Three years ago, Kaine became the first senator to deliver a floor speech in Spanish when he spoke for 14 minutes about the need to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Progressives will agree he has the right views on immigration, but many say he's too middle of the road when it comes to trade and financial regulations. He is a man who understands how to thread the needle. His religion makes him personally opposed to abortion, but he will say this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KAINE: Matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They're moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves.

CHANG: Oh, and one more thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF HARMONICA MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Tim Kaine on harmonica.

(APPLAUSE)

CHANG: He plays the harmonica. So how boring could he be?

(SOUNDBITE OF HARMONICA MUSIC)

CHANG: Kaine is known to jam with musicians, like here in Hiltons, Va., where he was wearing a hip denim jacket on top of khakis. Ailsa Chang, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.