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Clinton taps Tim Kaine for vice president, but fails to impress Sanders supporters

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton appeared with running mate Tim Kaine in Miami on Saturday. She announced that the Virginia senator would be her vice presidential pick on Friday.

by Liz Fields
Jul 23 2016, 1:20am

Scott Audette/Reuters

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her vice presidential pick, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, wasted no time in distinguishing their campaign from that of Donald Trump and the Republicans on Saturday at a rally in Miami.

In their first appearance together, Clinton introduced Kaine as "everything Donald Trump and Mike Pence are not."

Then he dropped his fluent Spanish on the south Florida crowd.

"Bienvenidos a todos," he said to the crowd at Florida International University, or "welcome to everyone."

Standing next to Pence, Clinton said he was "qualified to step into this job and lead on Day 1. And he is a progressive who likes to get things done."

She also hailed his religious upbringing and commitment to service.

"In both of our families, faith wasn't just something we talked about at church on Sundays, it was a call to serve others in every way that we can," she said.

Clinton announced Kaine as her pick in an email on Friday to supporters.

Kaine is considered a safe or logical pick by establishment politicians — after all, he has a solid resume as a former governor from a battleground state with a sturdy track record on economic issues. But he's no hotshot to ardent left-wing progressives, especially core supporters of one-time Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders, who endorsed Clinton earlier this month.

Related: These Are the Most Likely Candidates for Hillary Clinton's VP Choice

Winnie Wong, co-founder of grassroots group People for Bernie, which coined the catch-slogan "Feel the Bern," said that Kaine "is a wholly predictable, if entirely unimaginable pick" designed to draw in demographics not yet moved by Clinton's message.

"If Team Clinton really wanted to woo Bernie supporters, they'd try harder to win over his base by choosing a true progressive to be her running mate," Wong told VICE News. "But, politics as usual is a horse race, and Kaine is a horse that could appeal to many millions of moderate and independent (white) male voters who might never vote for her otherwise."

The beef some Sanders supporters have with Kaine centers on his stance on global trade deals and Wall Street regulation. Kaine remains undecided but leaning in favor of the Trans Pacific Partnership deal, which Sanders and his backers have vehemently opposed. The Virginia senator also actively advocated for federal bank deregulation this week, signing onto a letter Monday that sought to cut back on risk management reporting for big banks, and another urging the feds to exempt small banks from regulations designed to protects consumers.

But others defended the vice presidential pick as a "strong fit," saying Kaine, who is on both the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, has the necessary chops to slot into the position of VP seamlessly. Mo Elleithee, executive director of Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service, said that Kaine, the son of a welder, also has an "everyday" presence that could potentially offset any perceived unlikeability or confidence issues for Clinton.

"Is [Kaine] the most electrifying person, absolutely not," said Elleithee. "But he exudes authenticity — he's an everyday guy. You want someone who's going to able to connect with people. Kaine can make the sharp contrast with the Republican ticket, but by turning the volume down just a tad."

Related: Trump accepts the Republican nomination in Cleveland

Elleithee, who previously worked on Clinton's failed 2008 presidential bid and on Kaine's last two state races, added that he believed the notion that the Virginia senator is not a progressive is "misguided."

"[Kaine] chose to be a civil rights attorney after law school. He took fair housing cases, he ended up being elected to the city council and became mayor of the city and fought for fair housing, to lower crime, and for mental health," Elleithee said. "He even took a year off law school to be missionary in Honduras. He's a guy who's committed to public service and is driven by a sense of social justice."

"He and Hillary would be strong partners and gel very well," he added.

On Friday Clinton was campaigning in Orlando, Florida and will be joined by Kaine at Miami's Florida International Universityon Saturday for their first joint appearance.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields