Hillary Clinton chose Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate on Friday, making a prototypical Clinton decision that adds a safe politician to her ticket. Kaine might provide a marginal electoral benefit in his home state, but in choosing him, Clinton is making the bet that she doesn’t need a splashy running mate to beat Donald Trump.
Kaine has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the ticket for months. Of course, there’s usually a reason why someone is consistently on a short list: He or she makes sense as a vice presidential pick. Kaine speaks Spanish, so he can comfortably represent the ticket on Hispanic media, acting as a counter to a Republican ticket that is seen as hostile to Spanish speakers. At the same time, he grew up in the Midwest, he’s Catholic, he’s white and he’s a man — the Clinton campaign may have been worried about voters resistant to a ticket with two women, or a woman and a Latino or African-American.
Plus, Kaine has been through the wringer before and isn’t likely to make a fool of himself. He has won two major statewide elections in Virginia (first for governor and then for senator) and was reportedly a finalist to be Barack Obama’s running mate in 2008. That’s helpful in avoiding the situation John McCain found himself in that year, when he selected then-Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, an unvetted politician who may have hurt McCain’s chances. The first rule of picking a VP is “do no harm,” and Kaine is likelier than most to pass that test.
The one positive way vice presidential picks can matter is by providing a boost to the presidential candidate in the running mate’s home state. While there’s some debate …