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In Kaine, Clinton Gains A Swing-State Spanish Speaker


A few minutes ago, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine tweeted, (reading) Just got off the phone with Hillary. I'm honored to be her running mate.

That's right, it's official. After a week of Republicans in the news, Democrat Hillary Clinton has announced her pick for vice president. With us on the line now is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hello, Mara.


MCEVERS: So tell us what we need to know about Tim Kaine.

LIASSON: Well, what we need to know about Tim Kaine is he's a senator from Virginia. He's been a governor. He's been a mayor. He's been the head of the Democratic National Committee. He speaks fluent Spanish. And this pick reminds me a lot of when Bill Clinton - Hillary Clinton's husband - chose Al Gore. This is a pick not made for balance, but to double down on her political brand.

Kaine is a policy wonk. She's a policy wonk. Kaine is extremely well-qualified - he's had all those positions I just mentioned - so is she. Kaine looks for bipartisan compromise. He's a workhorse, not a show horse. He's a centrist, just like her. This is a governing pick. This is not a pick to unify the party, like Trump did with Pence. It's not a pick to get a particular demographic or a state. Virginia's important to her, but she's already ahead there.

MCEVERS: Right. Does it come from a place of strength for Hillary Clinton or a place of weakness, this choice?

LIASSON: I think it comes from a place of strength. If she had picked somebody from the left wing of the Democratic Party - an Elizabeth Warren - or if she'd had to go to Ohio and picked Sherrod Brown - both of those people are very well-qualified - that would have told you that she was worried about the Rust Belt, worried about the progressive wing of her party. Both of those people come from states with Republican governors, so presumably a Republican would have replaced Warren or Brown if she had won. Kaine comes from a state with a Democratic governor, so she's not putting in jeopardy the Democratic chances to regain the majority in the Senate.

MCEVERS: I want to talk a little bit more about Kaine's background. We know that he is a devout Catholic. We'll actually hear a little bit more about that in a minute. We know that he's pro-life. How will that gel with Hillary Clinton?

LIASSON: He is personally pro-life. He is not pro-life in terms of his voting record at all.


LIASSON: He speaks fluent Spanish. He was a Catholic missionary in Honduras. I think that even though he will get some pushback from the left wing of the party - they don't like the fact that he voted for trade deal - or deals - it gives her an opportunity to reach out to moderate Republicans and Independents. You know, Jeff Flake, who's a moderate Republican senator, just tweeted, (reading) trying to count the ways I hate @timkaine. Drawing a blank. Congrats to a good man and a good friend.


LIASSON: Now, I'm not saying that's going to be the universal Republican response to him, but if he gives her a chance to reach out to any particular group of voters, it would be centrists and Independents and moderate Republicans.

MCEVERS: And so it sounds like the fact that he is bilingual and that he spent some time, you know, doing this missionary work in Honduras that that's not necessarily sort of the top-line issue there in his background?

LIASSON: I don't think so. I think that if she - I think the Clinton campaign believes that Donald Trump will get her Hispanics. She doesn't need to put someone on the ticket who is Hispanic. Now, the fact that he speaks fluent Spanish is a great asset. He can campaign among - in front of Hispanic audiences and speak Spanish, so that's a good thing. But that certainly wasn't the top line. Again, I think this is a governing pick. This is about someone who can help her govern. And it tells you something about how she wants to govern. He's not an idealogue. He's...


LIASSON: ...A guy who works in the Senate for bipartisan compromise.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Mara Liasson on Hillary Clinton's choice for running mate Tim Kaine. Thank you very much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.