Politics

Clinton Should Not Pick Kaine As VP

| by Nik Bonopartis
Elizabeth Warren, Tim Kaine and Corey BookerElizabeth Warren, Tim Kaine and Corey Booker

Tim Kaine has an impressive resume.

The Virginia Democrat is a first-term senator, but before that he was chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and governor of his home state. The 58-year-old's political career has been on the rise since 1998, when he served as mayor of Richmond.

Kaine has executive experience as a governor and mayor. His senate stint -- although short -- gives him the perspective of an effective lawmaker, and his time as lieutenant governor proves he can be a right-hand man, someone who won't mind the deferential job of vice president.

Kaine checks the appropriate boxes on the issues, taking stances most Democrats would expect from one of their own. And perhaps a major reason why his name has been floated as a front-runner is because he's the kind of low-key politician who would mirror Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Republican nominee Donald Trump's choice of running mate.

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With all that said, does Hillary Clinton really want a "safe" choice for her running mate, or does she want to assemble a ticket that will get Democrats excited about voting for her in November?

The evidence suggests she probably needs the latter.

Fifty-seven percent of registered voters have an unfavorable view of Clinton, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, and 47 percent said their view of Clinton wasn't just negative, it was "strongly unfavorable." Negative views of the Democrat have reached their highest point since the Washington Post/ABC News poll began tracking them when Clinton struck out on her own and ran for a Senate seat in New York.

That's almost two decades' worth of poll numbers, with the worst results coming as Clinton slogs through the most important campaign of her political career.

There are other bad signs: Despite raising an impressive $314 million, according to OpenSecrets, and despite spending $26 million on attack ads against Trump in battleground states, per the Los Angeles Times, Clinton remains in a statistical tie with her Republican opponent.

And then there's the fallout from the FBI investigation into Clinton's use of several unsecured, homebrew email servers for her communications during her time as Secretary of State. While the Department of Justice declined to prosecute Clinton, in some ways that may have hurt her more than if she was officially charged.

A whopping 92 percent of Americans said they believe Clinton either broke the law or acted in "poor judgment" with her email setup, according to an Associated Press/GfK poll released on July 15. An earlier Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 56 percent of registered voters disapproved of the FBI's decision not to recommend charges against Clinton.

Those polls are bad news for the Clinton campaign, and the way voters perceived the email scandal was heavily influenced by FBI Director James Comey's harsh criticism of Clinton, and reports that former President Bill Clinton met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch in private before the FBI's decision. Even if Lynch and Bill Clinton only discussed golf and their grandchildren, as Lynch claimed, the perception is that Hillary's husband was trying to influence the investigation.

That, in turn, contributes to the perception that the Clintons continue to get away with illegal and immoral behavior, that there are separate rules for the rich and powerful, and that a Hillary Clinton administration would be saddled with the same baggage that damaged her husband's presidency. When most of the country thinks you should've been prosecuted as a felon, you've got problems.

So maybe Clinton ought to be thinking of a choice that will change the conversation and divert attention from her own woes.

One obvious choice, should Clinton decide to go that way, is Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Warren would bring authentic liberal credentials to the Clinton campaign, in a way unmatched by any of the other possible VP choices. Not only is she the kind of candidate Democrats would get excited about, she would help bring disaffected former Bernie Sanders voters into the Clinton fold.

With Warren, Clinton could contrast herself with Trump by pointing out that, unlike him, she's able to unify her own party and appeal to all its factions. Perhaps most importantly, vice presidents are seen as attack dogs. While presidential candidates typically try to steer clear of direct negative attacks, wary of appearing un-presidential, vice presidential candidates are free to put pressure on political opponents.

Warren has more than passed that test with her stinging criticisms of Trump not only as a candidate, but as a person.

New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker would also be a galvanizing choice, bringing many of the same liberal credentials as Warren. Booker is relatively young, popular and media savvy, especially when it comes to platforms like Twitter.

Booker famously responded to one constituent on Twitter by going to her elderly father's house and personally shoveling his driveway. Another time, he saved a New Jersey woman from a house fire, and during Hurricane Sandy he opened his home to people who were displaced by the storm's damage. How many other politicians can say they've done those things?

As race relations become a larger issue in American society -- and a bigger focus in the 2016 presidential campaign -- Booker could help bolster Clinton's case that she would be a unifier and the right choice to lead the country. Booker is progressive on the issues, he's a media darling, and most people see him in a positive light from his work as mayor of Newark.

Ultimately, the speculation is pointless. If recent media reports are accurate, not even Clinton's inner circle, her most trusted advisors, know whom she's going to pick. It's possible that Clinton herself doesn't know, as reports have her hunkered down at home in New York, mulling her options as the Democratic National Convention draws near.

With at least another day or two before Clinton announces her choice of running mate, she should take some time to think beyond the safe choice and consider a running mate who will bring life and energy back to her flagging campaign.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: Politico, CNN, ABC News, The Hill, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Huffington Post Pollster / Photo credits: U.S. Congress/Wikimedia Commons, David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons, U.S. Senate/Wikimedia Commons

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