Breaking Iowa Democratic hearts, Hillary Clinton picks Tim Kaine for VP

Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced a few minutes ago that U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a former mayor of Richmond and governor of Virginia, willge the Democratic candidate for vice president. Kaine’s been the front-runner for the job all along, by virtue of his extensive political experience, stature in a swing state, good ties with the business community, and fluency in Spanish.

I suspect that the Bernie Sanders endorsement last week, combined with the mostly disastrous Republican National Convention, gave Clinton confidence to make a “safe” choice, rather than someone who would excite our party’s base, like Senator Elizabeth Warren or even Senator Cory Booker. Too bad Ohio has a Republican governor, otherwise Senator Sherrod Brown would have been an ideal running mate. Some pundits are calling Kaine a “governing pick,” someone Clinton feels comfortable working with for the next four or eight years, as opposed to the person who can do the most to boost her campaign over the next four months.

Of all the people Clinton was considering, Kaine arouses the most antipathy from the Sanders wing for various reasons. His vocal support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement is just one of the problems. Kaine’s defenders point to his perfect voting record in the Senate on reproductive rights and LGBT equality, his near-perfect record on labor issues, his background as a civil rights attorney, and numerous accomplishments as governor. He is not outside the Democratic Party’s mainstream. On the other hand, the Progressive Punch database ranks Kaine the 40th most progressive among the 46 current senators who caucus with Democrats.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack was repeatedly named in news reports and commentaries about Clinton’s short list. He’s got an inspiring personal story and developed a tremendous grasp of public policy over his long career in local, state and federal government. By all accounts, he and Clinton get along very well, having been acquainted since Clinton became friends with Christie Vilsack’s brother Tom Bell during the 1970s. Like Kaine, he has a reputation for making few mistakes. I regret that Clinton didn’t choose Vilsack, though I would have been equally happy with Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

No one is more disappointed tonight than the Iowa Democrats who know Vilsack best. Sometimes in politics, you hear how so-and-so big shot elected official was a nightmare to work for. You never hear those stories about Vilsack. On the contrary, the former Vilsack staffers I know rave about how knowledgeable, thorough, caring, engaging, and funny he was.

Then First Lady Clinton came through for Vilsack at a critical time during his underdog 1998 gubernatorial campaign. I have no doubt she will tap him for an important job if she is elected president. Iowans will see plenty of Vilsack on the trail this fall as a supporter of Clinton and down-ticket candidates.

Any thoughts about Kaine or the presidential race generally are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Added below some comments from Iowa Democrats to the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble and Brianne Pfannenstiel.

SECOND UPDATE: Embedded below the video from the first joint campaign appearance by Clinton and Kaine, in Miami on July 23. His stump speech is worth watching in full; it was remarkably well constructed and delivered. I see more clearly now what this “happy warrior” could bring to the ticket. He wove together personal details, policy accomplishments, and a clear contrast between Clinton’s vision for the country and Donald Trump’s. I didn’t know much about Kaine’s legal work to combat housing discrimination, or that he and his wife sent their kids to public schools. If he does as well at the DNC on Wednesday night, Republicans should be worried.

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Thoughts on Hillary Clinton's vice presidential short list

Who’s up for a thread about Hillary Clinton’s potential running mates? Jeff Zeleny and Dan Merica reported for CNN yesterday that Clinton has a short list of “fewer than five” candidates for vice president. Possible names include: U.S. Senator and former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack.

Citing unnamed “Democrats close to the process,” Zeleny and Merica say Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and U.S. Representative Xavier Beccera of California “are no longer thought to be in serious contention.”

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Joni Ernst happy to campaign for Trump but wants to stay in the Senate

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst moved today to cut off speculation about becoming Donald Trump’s running mate. Politico’s Burgess Everett quoted Ernst as saying she “would love to assist [Trump] out on the trail” but had made “very clear” to him during their July 4 meeting that “I have a lot more to do in the United States Senate. And Iowa is where my heart is.”

Ernst will deliver one of the prime-time speeches during the Republican National Convention, Jeremy Peters and Maggie Haberman reported today for the New York Times, citing “three people with direct knowledge of the convention planning.” Her willingness to take such a prominent role stands in stark contrast to the Republican heavyweights who are skipping the show in Cleveland.

Pat Rynard observed at Iowa Starting Line that no other swing state’s Republican establishment is as firmly behind Trump as ours. He speculates that the cooperation could improve Trump’s chances to win Iowa (a competitive state by all accounts) as well as prospects for GOP candidates down-ticket.

I’m happy to roll the dice on that outcome in exchange for Ernst repeatedly, enthusiastically associating herself with this train wreck of a nominee. Just within the past few days, Trump spread an anti-Semitic Hillary Clinton meme white supremacists had created and praised Saddam Hussein for allegedly taking out terrorists efficiently. Multiple staffers have bailed out after short stints with his dysfunctional campaign. Going along to get along is the easy political call for Ernst now, but she may regret that choice when she’s running for re-election to the Senate in 2020.

Trump’s options for vice president are shrinking: Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee has told Trump he’s not interested in the job, according to the Washington Post’s Robert Costa. I’m still pinning my hopes on Newt Gingrich.

UPDATE: Added below some of Ernst’s latest comments to Radio Iowa’s O.Kay Henderson.

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Joni Ernst on Donald Trump's short list for vice president after all

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst met with Donald Trump today in New Jersey. The statement she released later said nothing about being his running mate. However, citing unnamed sources close to Trump’s campaign, CNN’s Jamie Gangel, Jim Acosta, and Sara Murray reported yesterday that Ernst “is being considered” for the vice presidential nomination.

In mid-June, Ernst told Iowa reporters she doubted she was on Trump’s short list, since no one from the campaign had reached out to her. Indiana Governor Mike Pence is now the leading candidate to be the GOP running mate, according to CNN’s sources, followed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. David M. Jackson reported for USA Today that Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas is also under consideration. Others have mentioned Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, or perhaps Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin.

In May, both Governor Terry Branstad and Senator Chuck Grassley endorsed the idea of Ernst as Trump’s running mate. Though some see Iowa’s junior senator as a good fit for the GOP ticket, I think Trump would do better to choose someone with more governing and policy experience.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Gingrich, for maximum Hillary Clinton blowout potential. On the other hand, being closely associated with Trump would hurt Ernst politically in the long run, despite the initial boost to her stature. So I would welcome a Trump-Ernst ticket as well.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I enclose below today’s full statement from Ernst. My favorite part referred to ensuring the U.S. remains “a strong, stabilizing force around the globe.” Trump in the Oval Office would be the opposite of a stabilizing presence. Almost every week he makes some impulsive comment that could cause an international incident if he were president.

UPDATE: Pence met with Trump on July 2, Brian Slodysko reported for the Associated Press. A spokesperson for the Indiana governor, who endorsed Ted Cruz for president a few days before his state’s primary in April, said “nothing was offered” during Pence’s meeting with the presumptive GOP nominee. Pence would be a stronger running mate than Ernst, though why someone who may have his own presidential ambitions would want to hitch his wagon to Trump, I can’t imagine.

SECOND UPDATE: Sarah Boden reported for Iowa Public Radio on July 5 that Grassley again said Ernst would be a good running mate for Trump, citing her “military and legislative experience, and her expertise as someone from a rural, agricultural state.”

THIRD UPDATE: Added below excerpts from stories by Daniel Halper and Robert Costa about Trump considering one of his advisers, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn.

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Early signs from the Trump and Clinton campaigns in Iowa

Donald Trump just fired his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, an unpopular figure among reporters and even in some pro-Trump circles. The person who interviewed Eric Branstad to run Trump’s Iowa operation is no longer with the campaign either, O.Kay Henderson reported for Radio Iowa today. But Governor Terry Branstad is all in for the presumptive GOP nominee:

“I’m certainly going to do all I can. I think people know me well that I’m not a shrinking violet,” Branstad told reporters. “I tend to be one that gets proactively involved and I certainly intend to in this campaign, as I have in the past.”

Branstad had hoped Trump would consider Senator Joni Ernst to be his running mate, but Ernst told reporters on June 16, “Nobody has reached out to me” from the Trump campaign. Unnamed Republican sources told Politico’s Eli Stokols and Burgess Everett that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich top the VP short list, with Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama “a distant third” and Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin “also in the mix.”

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s campaign plans to spend at least $1.2 million on television advertising in Iowa during June and July. According to NBC’s Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Carrie Dann, Clinton will spend $568,000 to run spots in the Des Moines market, $427,000 in the market covering Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, and Dubuque, $155,000 in the Omaha market, and $37,000 in Ottumwa/Kirksville, Missouri. After the jump I’ve enclosed the video of the first three general election ads the campaign is running in Iowa and seven other battleground states. One 60-second spot, similar to commercials run here before the Iowa caucuses, recounts Clinton’s decades-long advocacy for children. A separate 30-second spot focuses on her efforts to expand health insurance coverage for children. The final 60-second spot highlights the contrasting styles of Clinton and Trump, shown saying at rallies, “I’d like to punch him in the face” and “Knock the crap out of him, would you?”, along with the notorious clip mocking a reporter with a physical disability.

Public Policy Polling’s latest Iowa survey showed Clinton leading Trump here by 44 percent to 41 percent. The Democratic candidate’s favorable/unfavorable numbers were 42 percent/55 percent, which would not be promising except that Trump’s ratings are even worse: 33 percent favorable/64 percent unfavorable. That poll did not ask respondents whether they approved of Branstad’s work as governor.

UPDATE: Added below Branstad’s comments on Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the country.

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Six reasons Newt Gingrich would be a perfect running mate for Donald Trump

Former U.S. Representative Greg Ganske has a guest column in today’s Des Moines Register making the case for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as Donald Trump’s running mate. Gingrich has been unofficially auditioning for the job lately. Ganske argues that Newt has the qualities that Trump has said he’s looking for: someone with “a strong political background, who was well respected on the Hill, who can help me with legislation, and who could be a great president.”

Although Governor Terry Branstad is pushing Senator Joni Ernst to be Trump’s running mate, several well-known Iowa Republicans would probably be as thrilled with a Trump-Gingrich ticket as Ganske. Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer was Gingrich’s first high-profile endorser here in 2011, when she was Iowa House majority leader. State party chair Jeff Kaufmann also supported Gingrich before the 2012 caucuses, when Kaufmann served as Iowa House speaker pro-tem. In December 2011, Gingrich picked up support from several more GOP state lawmakers, including then Speaker Kraig Paulsen and rising star Chris Hagenow, who is now House majority leader.

While Gingrich has never struck a chord with me, he seems like a perfect match for Trump, and not only because he has the policy knowledge the presumptive Republican nominee lacks.

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