Clinton looks to steal Trump thunder with VP pick

Ken Thomas and Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press, Published Friday, July 22, 2016 10:26AM EDT, Last Updated Friday, July 22, 2016 3:55PM EDT,

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Hillary Clinton will introduce her running mate Friday, seeking to snatch attention from newly crowned Republican nominee Donald Trump just hours after he closed out his convention with a fiery and foreboding turn at the podium.

A person familiar with the Clinton campaign's plans said Friday first word would come later in the day in a text message to supporters and the new team will appear together in Florida on Saturday.

The person was not authorized to discuss the campaign's internal plans publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine is the leading contender, according to a pair of Democrats familiar with Clinton's search.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Tuesday, July 19, 2016. (Andrew Harnik / AP)

Active in the Senate on foreign relations and military affairs, Kaine has a reputation for working with both parties as Virginia's governor and mayor of Richmond.

Clinton made no mention of her impending pick during a sombre meeting with community leaders and family members affected by the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. She later visited the site of the rampage that killed 49 people, placing a bouquet of white flowers at the site next to a candle and a framed picture of a cross.

Clinton said gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are more likely to be victims of a hate crime than other people. "It is still dangerous to be LGBT in America," she said. "We have to stand against hate and bigotry."

His four-day convention over, Trump wasn't ready to cede the public's attention to his Democratic rival. He stoked his feud with Ted Cruz, the Texas senator and former GOP primary rival who shocked the Republican convention by refusing to endorse the nominee.

Trump said he wouldn't accept Cruz's endorsement if it were offered.

"What difference does it make?" Trump asked, as he wondered aloud if he could create a super PAC as president to go after Cruz. He added: "Ted, stay home. Relaxe. Enjoy yourself."

Trump also boasted of his TV ratings, his primary victories and other achievements, including winning over his wife, Melania, in a stream-of-consciousness delivery with his vice-presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, standing quietly nearby.

"I don't do anything unless I win," Trump insisted. He promised to work "so hard" and vowed his campaign was "not going to disappear," though he has no plans to campaign this weekend and no events on his schedule for next week.

In an 75-minute speech Thursday night, Trump made forceful promises to be the champion of disaffected Americans, capping his convention on a high note for the party, not a moment too soon after shows of disharmony and assorted flubs before the four-day closer.

Speaking to "the forgotten men and women of our country," the people who "work hard but no longer have a voice," he declared: "I am your voice." The speech was strikingly dark for a celebratory event and almost entirely lacking in policy details.

Democrats offered a different assessment. President Barack Obama said Friday the picture Trump painted of the nation "doesn't really jive with the experience with most people."

During their convention, Republicans were relentless and often raw in demonizing Clinton. As fired-up supporters at Trump's acceptance speech broke out in their oft-used refrain of "Lock her up," the nominee waved them off, and instead declared, "Let's defeat her in November." Yet he also accused her of "terrible, terrible crimes."

"This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism and weakness," he said. "But Hillary Clinton's legacy does not have to be America's legacy."

The Democratic convention in Philadelphia, which starts Monday, is expected to be a more orderly affair.

Original Post

Kaine rises to top of Clinton's veep list

The selection process is colored by new uncertainty among Democrats about whether Trump will be the GOP nominee.

160622_tim_kaine_gty_1160.jpgSen. Tim Kaine is still viewed as the safest and most attractive option to be Hillary Clinton's running mate. | Getty

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine is emerging as the leading candidate atop Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential short list, according to Democratic allies and operatives close to the campaign.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and HUD Secretary Julian Castro are also top prospects for the Democratic ticket β€” both representing nods to important Democratic constituencies.

But they have serious drawbacks that make them less appealing for Clinton than the Spanish-speaking, Terry McAuliffe-endorsed, former missionary and swing state governor, who was a finalist in Barack Obama’s vice presidential vetting process eight years ago.

Kaine currently towers over other top-tier candidates still in consideration like New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, California Rep. Xavier Becerra and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.

β€œTim Kaine was a finalist eight years ago because of his executive experience, solidity, values, standing in a critical state and overall profile as someone who would be a good governing partner to Obama,” said former Obama senior strategist David Axelrod, who was involved in the selection process eight years ago. β€œHe was very much in contention and highly regarded.”

The selection process, however, is colored by new uncertainty among Democratic donors and Clinton allies who are no longer convinced that Donald Trump is sure to be the GOP nominee. A big advantage of holding their convention second, Democrats said, was being able to make a final pick with full knowledge of the GOP ticket.

At a fundraiser in Manhattan earlier this week, Clinton was peppered with questions from her top donors about whether there is any chance that the Republicans could nominate someone else β€” she said she thought the chances of that outcome were low.

Clinton also joked that she is still open to expanding her vice presidential search beyond the list of elected officials that so far has emerged. β€œIf anyone has any ideas, let me know,” she told the crowd. β€œIf anyone wants to put their name in the ring, let me know.”

Clinton allies said that the campaign has been keen on Kaine for months. But like Obama, who also focused on Joe Biden from the beginning but went through the due diligence of looking closely at different models, Clinton is still vetting a host of candidates.

Castro, 41, makes for a striking tableau standing next to Clinton: a rising Latino star of the Democratic Party, paired with the older, experienced, first female major party nominee, gives the sense of a big tent party. Castro has been working hard for Clinton on the trail, traveling to 11 states as a surrogate, but Democrats close to the campaign said there is concern his inexperience would cramp Clinton’s ability to frame Trump as someone lacking the appropriate resume for the Oval Office.

The progressive revolt against Castro over his handling of mortgage sales β€” no small concern for a party struggling to win over voters with deep reservations about Clinton’s brand of center-left pragmatism and her ties to Wall Street β€” has also raised some red flags.

Warren, 67, the fantasy number two pick for many progressive-leaning Democrats, offers the promise of a historic two-woman ticket, and would help soothe the hurt feelings of millions of Bernie Sanders supporters who find great appeal in the message of an economic system that is rigged for those at the top.

But the Massachusetts senator is seen as a potentially difficult bedfellow for the next eight years, and there is a lack of any personal relationship between the two leaders to draw on. There’s also a sense in Clinton circles that in a race against Trump, Clinton doesn’t need to make what would be a buzzy but risky bet with a number two who has her own clear agenda to push β€” one that has not always been in line with Clinton’s. Warren insiders have expressed distrust of Clinton on her core issue of Wall Street reform.

Nevertheless, Warren appears to be pursuing the job in recent weeks, serving as the lead attack dog against Trump. Last week, she visited Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters to rally the troops with a typically blunt Warren message, β€œDon’t screw this up!”

On Monday she will appear for her first joint rally with Clinton in Ohio. Warren has met with James Hamilton, the veteran attorney overseeing the campaign’s vetting process, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Still, campaign allies view Warren as a long shot. β€œAt the end of the day, Warren would be the same thing as Bernie Sanders,” said one Clinton fundraiser. β€œShe doesn't need Warren. She wants a relationship with whoever her vice president is.”

One dark horse that Clinton allies said is also on the list is Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, a close ally who is also popular with the progressive wing of the party and enjoys a closer bond with Clinton.

But Kaine, 58, is still viewed as the safest and most attractive option. Unlike Warren, who sat out the primary and endorsed after President Obama did, Kaine came around to Clinton two years ago, joining the β€œReady for Hillary” group in 2014 at the South Carolina Democratic Party women’s breakfast. He was an active member of the group, sending surrogate emails and fundraising, according to a former operative. Over the past year, he has traveled to seven states as a Clinton surrogate and is often on campaign calls with reporters.

In February, for example, during one of the low points of Clinton’s campaign, Kaine, who sits on both the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, spoke about the β€œcommander-in-chief gap” between Sanders and Clinton on a conference call with the press.

With a five to eight point lead in the most recent national polls, and a huge advantage in cash over Trump, Clinton does not need to take a big risk, said half a dozen Democrats close to her campaign.

β€œShe is in a strong position and doesn’t need to throw the long ball,” said Democratic consultant Michael Feldman, a former top aide to Al Gore. β€œMore important, she is experienced and has been around the process long enough to know the essential criteria. Do no harm, because the downside of a mistake is greater than the upside of a great choice. Make sure it is someone who you are ready to work down the hall from for the next four to eight years.”

Kaine's office has helpful ties to Clinton, too. His chief of staff, Mike Henry, was a deputy campaign manager for Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and went on to run Terry McAuliffe's campaign for Virginia governor later that year. The idea of McAuliffe, Clinton’s most trusted ally, filling his vacant seat is also appealing.

The Clinton team is not currently vetting Sanders, and has not reached out to ask for any input as it conducts its the vice presidential search. But Sanders has thrown in his own two cents, noting in an appearance on Meet The Press that the vice president needs to be a true progressive and raising the question of whether he might object to Clinton's choice. The running mate pick needs to "address the needs of the middle class, and that means standing up to Wall Street, standing up to the greed of corporate America," he said.

For now, the group overseeing the process includes Clinton’s innermost circle: Huma Abedin, campaign chairman John Podesta, senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan and Cheryl Mills, her former chief of staff at the State Department who has no formal campaign role.

Sen. Tim Kaine offers support for Hillary Clinton in May 2014, even before she got in the race.

Sen. Tim Kaine offers support for Hillary Clinton in May 2014, even before she got in the race. | AP Photo

A source with knowledge of the process said they have finished the first wave of vetting a long list of potential picks, which involves collecting publicly available information about all the candidates. The campaign is now asking a shorter list to fill out lengthy questionnaires. A Clinton campaign spokesman declined to comment on the entire process.

Bill Clinton is also expected to have a major say in any final decision, and notably spent quality time in California with Perez, who is seen as having appeal to both the party's liberal wing and Hispanic constituencies.

The one knock against Kaine is that he would not energize minority turnout. β€œIf there's any worry I have, it is that black and brown and young people don't come out in the higher number that we need them to come out in order for her to securely win,” said South Carolina state party chairman Jaime Harrison, referring to the party’s November calculus. β€œThat is the thing that worries me the most. It's always about whether or not your base is motivated to come out.”

In the end, however, Clinton is looking for someone who will burnish her own profile on the road to November.

β€œDo you want someone you're comfortable with, or is there a political objective you have to accomplish,” said longtime Clinton ally James Carville, who was involved with Bill Clinton’s choice of Al Gore in 1992.

He said the magic of the Gore pick β€” which was a move to double down on young, white Southern reformers rather than to broaden the base β€” was that it amplified Bill Clinton’s virtues. The magic formula, Carville said, ultimately comes down to chemistry: β€œYou're looking for 2 + 2 equals 4.1.”

Daniel Strauss and Edward-Isaac Dovere contributed to this report.

Clinton picks Sen. Tim Kaine as running mate

Ken Thomas and Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press, Published Friday, July 22, 2016 10:26AM EDT, Last Updated Friday, July 22, 2016 8:58PM EDT,

TAMPA, Fla. -- Hillary Clinton named Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her vice-presidential running mate Friday, adding a centrist former governor of a crucial battleground state to the Democratic ticket.

In a text message to supporters, the presumptive Democratic nominee said, "I'm thrilled to tell you this first: I've chosen Sen. Tim Kaine as my running mate."

On Twitter a few seconds later, Clinton described Kaine as "a man who's devoted his life to fighting for others." 

In this July 14, 2016, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, accompanied by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., speaks at a rally at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va. Clinton has chosen Kaine to be her running mate (AP / Andrew Harnik)

Kaine himself tweeted, "I'm honoured to be her running mate." The two will make their first appearance together Saturday at a rally in Miami.

With the pick, Clinton moved into the political spotlight a day after newly crowned Republican nominee Donald Trump closed out his convention with a fiery address accusing his general election opponent of "terrible, terrible crimes."

Kaine, 58, had long been a favourite for Clinton's ticket. Fluent in Spanish and active in the Senate on foreign relations and military affairs, he built a reputation for working across the aisle as Virginia's governor and as mayor of Richmond.

Clinton's decision caps a highly secretive, months-long process to find a political partner. Clinton called Kaine by phone around 7:30 p.m. Friday to offer him job, and he accepted, according to a campaign aide. She then called President Barack Obama to inform him of the decision.

Clinton was weighing two finalists: Kaine and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a longtime friend of the candidate and former President Bill Clinton. Kaine's strong ties to Virginia, a crucial general election battleground, and his foreign policy experience put him over the top, according to a person close to the campaign, who insisted on anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the process publicly.

Kaine has been a favourite of Obama since his early 2008 endorsement, the president told Clinton's campaign he believed the senator would be a strong choice during the selection process.

Those views are not shared by some liberals in the Democratic Party, who dislike his support of free trade and Wall Street. They pushed Clinton to pick Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, intensifying their criticism of Kaine late this week as his selection appeared imminent.

Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said Friday that Kaine's support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact gives Republicans "a new opening to attack Democrats on this economic populist issue."

Clinton's campaign largely declined to comment on the search process, trying to keep the details -- even the names of the finalists -- under wraps to try to maximize the impact of their announcement. She made no mention of her impending pick during a sombre meeting Friday with community leaders and family members affected by the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and a later campaign rally in Tampa.

As Clinton prepared to make her VP pick Friday, Trump met with supporters at his convention hotel in Cleveland to run through a long list of thank-yous after the end of his four-day coronation as head of the Republican Party.

But rather than stay focused on Clinton or reach out to the general election voters he now must court, the newly minted Republican nominee spent considerable time stoking the fire of his bitter quarrel with Republican former rival Ted Cruz. "Ted, stay home," Trump said, dismissing any interest in an endorsement the Texas senator refuses to provide. "Relax. Enjoy yourself."

Trump boasted of his TV ratings, his primary victories and other achievements, including winning over his wife, Melania, in a stream-of-consciousness delivery with his vice-presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, standing quietly nearby.

"I don't do anything unless I win," Trump insisted. He promised to work "so hard" as the nominee and vowed his campaign was "not going to disappear," even though he has no plans to campaign this weekend and no events on his schedule for next week.

No matter, perhaps, as that time will belong to Clinton and the Democrats, whose own convention begins Monday in Philadelphia. Kaine, who won election to the Senate in 2012 after serving as Obama's first chairman of the Democratic National Committee, will likely speak in the slot reserved for the vice-presidential pick on Wednesday night.

Before entering politics, Kaine was an attorney who specialized in civil rights and fair housing. He learned Spanish during a mission trip to Honduras while in law school, an experience he still references on the campaign trail. During his political career, he's demonstrated an ability to woo voters across party lines, winning his 2006 gubernatorial race with support in both Democratic strongholds and traditionally Republican strongholds.

His wife, Anne Holton, is the daughter of a former Virginia governor, a former state judge and, currently, the state's Education Secretary. The couple has three children.

Clinton's plans to pick Kaine, hinted at for several days leading up her Friday announcement, had been viewed as a safe choice against the Republican ticket of Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

Some Democrats believe Trump's selection of Pence, a conservative white man from a largely Republican state, freed Clinton from pressure to add another woman or minority to her ticket. Her short list included Warren, two Latino cabinet secretaries and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, one of two black U.S. senators.

Democrats argue that Kaine could help her woo moderate and even some Republican voters turned off by Trump's provocative rhetoric, which was at the centre of his 75-minute Thursday night acceptance speech. Trump pledged to restore a sense of public safety, strictly curb immigration and save the nation from Clinton's record of "death, destruction, terrorism and weakness."

Democrats offered a different assessment of the state of the nation. Obama said Friday that Trump painted a picture that "doesn't really jibe with the experience with most people."

At a White House news conference with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Obama said crime rates, especially those for violent crime, are lower than at any time in the past 30 years. He noted violent crime has recently risen in some cities, "but we're not going to make good decisions based on fears that don't have a basis in fact."

Kaine got some practice challenging Trump's message when he campaigned with Clinton last week in northern Virginia, where he spoke briefly in Spanish and offered a strident assault on Trump's White House credentials.

"Do you want a 'you're fired' president or a 'you're hired' president?" Kaine asked in Annandale, Virginia, as Clinton nodded. "Do you want a trash-talking president or a bridge-building president?"

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