Kaine, a popular senator from a battleground state who also speaks Spanish, has apparently beat out Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker for the second slot on the Democratic presidential ticket, sources told The Wall Street Journal.
The New York Times also reported Kaine was the likely choice, but hedged, saying individuals close to Clinton said she had not made the choice official. She is widely expected to announce the decision in a text message to supporters on Friday afternoon before staging a campaign swing through the battleground state of Florida in advance of the Democratic convention, which begins Monday in Philadelphia.
Campaign insiders said former President Bill Clinton supports Kaine and has stressed the importance of winning Virginia, with no candidate since 2000 winning the White House without winning Virginia.
But liberals, particularly those aligned with Sen. Bernie Sanders, voiced their objection to a senator viewed as a moderate.
“Our presidential ticket cannot beat the billionaire bigot by simply being not Donald Trump,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the liberal advocacy group Democracy for America, in a statement.
“To win in November, our ticket needs to have an unquestionably strong record in the fight against income inequality, one of the defining issues of the 2016 election.”
Kaine has expressed vocal support for free trade pacts that have become a central economic issue in the campaign, and one on which Clinton has had a complicated history. She voted against the only free trade deal to come before the Senate in her eight years there, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, but Bill Clinton negotiated and pushed through the precursor, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Now, more than six in 10 Americans believe NAFTA has resulted in U.S. manufacturing jobs to move to Mexico, a partner in the agreement.
Additionally, as secretary of state, Clinton supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal negotiated by President Barack Obama. Now as a candidate she has indicated she would be unlikely to support it in its present form because she said it lacks sufficient environmental and labor protections for U.S. workers from cheaper-cost Asian nations.
Kaine voted to fast-track approval of TPP in the Senate last year and has defended NATFA.
Trade is a singular issue where Trump’s unorthodox brand of populist conservatism meets up with that of Clinton’s primary opponent, the democratic socialist Sanders. Both men railed against free trade deals as job-killers throughout the primary.
Since Clinton locked up the nomination, Trump has repeatedly brought up their mutual opposition to free trade as a means to woo Sanders voters away from Clinton.
Liberals such as DFA’s Chamberlain have held out hope Clinton would use the VP selection to offer an olive branch to liberals. While it is widely assumed Sanders himself is not up for consideration — nor, as it’s been reported, would he want the job if it were offered — others, most notably Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, could serve to scratch the itch.
Both lawmakers come with drawbacks, however. Warren and Clinton do not enjoy a close personal relationship and Warren’s steadfast opposition to large Wall Street banks, while immensely popular with the liberal base, could prove a detriment to Clinton’s fundraising efforts in her adopted home state of New York.
Brown, who was widely seen as a more palatable option to Clinton personally, is weighed down by the political realities of his Senate seat. If Brown were to run as VP and win, it would mean handing Republicans his seat for at least the next two years because it would be filled via executive appointment by Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich.
Republicans are on the defensive trying to hold their Senate majority with far more seats to defend than Democrats in 2016, meaning handing away Brown’s seat to the GOP could cost Democrats control of the entire chamber.