People say that the first presidential act of a candidate for the White House is choosing a vice president, the person whose main function is taking the reins of the government if the president becomes incapacitated or dies. At the same time, that act provides a window into the candidate’s way of thinking and strategy, both for campaigning and governing.
For example, by choosing ex-Governor Tim Kaine as her running mate, Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, selected someone who could help her add Virginia to the list of the states that she’s likely to win in November. It also demonstrates that she’s interested in having by her side a senator with national security and defense experience to respond to accusations of weakness from the GOP—and someone who speaks Spanish fluently to connect with Latinos.
Senator Bernie Sanders’ followers are extremely disappointed, as are Democrats who wanted a vice presidential candidate from an ethnic minority. Kaine is a white man, friendly to Wall Street and free trade agreements. He’s also a moderate who could attract a segment of the white vote that Republican candidate Donald Trump is trying to win.
The Democrats’ hope is to emerge from the convention with a united front between progressives and the candidate, just like the Republicans intended for the choice of Governor Mike Pence to help attract conservatives to Trump’s corner.
Both Kaine and Pence are experienced politicians with their own clout. The question is how they will be used, in addition to the decorative and formal aspects, like for attending relatively important funerals. We’ll have to wait and see how much their bosses will listen to them at the White House.
In the meanwhile, their role now is to relentlessly attack their rivals, so that the top of the ticket can act presidentially and make proposals in a positive manner. That is the expectation, at least during a normal election season—which is not exactly the case in this surprise-filled political cycle.