The Pros and Cons of Nominating Tim Kaine for President in 2020
US Senator From Virginia
Nominating Tim Kaine Would Be Both an Asset and a Liability for the Democrats
It had been almost 11 months since the November 8, 2016 presidential election when I first began researching about Senator Tim Kaine's career and many in the Democratic party are looking for ways to construct or structure a strategy to counter President Donald Trump’s fiery, populist rhetoric. They are wondering who the Democratic National Committee will try to push through or nominate so that person can challenge Donald Trump in the 2020 Election (assuming that he is not removed from office due to the 25th Amendment or because of the work of brilliant Special Counsel Robert Mueller). I will say that Virginia Senator Tim Kaine should be given some consideration if Donald Trump’s popularity or approval rating really takes a serious nosedive. My best estimation of such a figure would be something in the area of a 25% approval rating. I really like Kaine and I would happily vote for him in a second, even though he is a corporate Democrat. Nominating him would be a very risky strategy in 2020, but it is an option that Democrats should consider. This article is going to examine the pros and cons of nominating him in 2020. Before some conservatives try to point out that this article is biased or too partisan, I will state that this article focuses on both sides: the risks and benefits of nominating this senator.
Here Is a Very Practical Reason for Nominating Tim Kaine
Some of you may think that nominating him is a risky strategy and it sure is. However, given the fact that he speaks Spanish, he could potentially attract larger numbers of Latino voters across the United States compared to other potential 2020 candidates such as Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, or Nina Turner, all three of them being Progressive Democrats. I know that many on the far left love Bernie Sanders and even I would happily support Sanders if he were to get the Democratic nomination for President in 2020. However, it is really difficult to win a national election with the support of just the far left liberal Democrats. A potential candidate for public office has to be able to reach out to and attract voters from many demographics— not just hardcore liberals. But first, let’s discuss the reasons why nominating Kaine would be a risky move for the Democratic Party. These reasons will be practical and make lots of sense because I have assessed and studied national elections since 1996 and based my reasoning on my observances.
Nominating Tim Kaine: The Cons
- Corporate centrist democrats will have a hard time exciting the democratic base. Kaine was the losing vice presidential candidate and the running mate of Hillary Clinton who was seen by many in middle America or the Rust Belt as someone who did not really care about the concerns of white working class voters. He will most likely lose in the 2020 election to Donald Trump. Even Mike Pence would be a tough challenge for him because he is seen as a boring, generic, establishment candidate by many on the progressive side such as Kyle Kulinski of the show called "Secular Talk." Progressive democrats would be turned off by Senator Kaine because is a corporate, centrist kind of Democrat. The country has changed a lot since the early 1990's and the centrist model just does not work anymore.
- Dislike of Hillary Clinton. Voters would be turned off by Kaine because of his connection to and their dislike of Hillary Clinton. This reason is pretty much obvious and doesn't need much explanation. Many in the United States did not and still do not like Hillary Clinton because of her email scandal, which really was not a scandal at all and the fact that they felt that she was too friendly to Wall Street and that she cared very little about the white working class. How does this reason relate to the senator’s nomination being a risk? He is seen as a corporate, centrist Democrat who would have a very hard time in most of the Midwestern states, especially Wisconsin which is popular for its labor unions. Kaine would lose Wisconsin in 2020 and he will not even win in states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania if the African American voter turnout is low. Which brings us to the next reason.
- African American voter turnout is not likely to be high enough for him to succeed. Tim Kaine is not even close to being as popular as Barack Obama was. Obama is one of the greatest public speakers that I have ever seen and he was able to galvanize the African American community because of his charisma and slogan about hope and change. Many African American voters saw Obama as the perfect alternative politician because the country was changing and people had grown very tired of George W. Bush. Tim Kaine does not have Obama’s charisma or his speaking skills, so I would guess that he would not get enough support from African American voters, even if Donald Trump’s approval rating is 25% or lower.
- The typical American voter does not approve of boring, generic, establishment democrats. This reason is pretty obvious as well and it relates to the first reason. In 1996, Bob Dole lost in a landslide to Bill Clinton by a margin of 379 to 159. This is because Dole had the same issue that Senator Kaine has. Dole was seen as not exciting enough to attract real enthusiasm of the Republican base. The senator would not lose by quite that big of a margin, but he would still more than likely lose to Trump or Pence in 2020. He would probably not do much better than Hillary Clinton’s 232 Electoral Votes though he may be able to flip the state of Florida if he can attract enough of the Latino vote against a hugely unpopular Donald Trump or a far right conservative such as Mike Pence, but that is a big "if." If he can attract a higher percentage of Latino voters than Hillary Clinton did (71% or higher), then he has a real chance at winning Florida and thus delivering a huge upset during the election.
- Historically it has been very tough to defeat an incumbent president. Incumbent presidents already have a built-in advantage. Let’s provide some historical perspective here. If we use the 1930's as a starting point, this is the easiest way to prove the point. Starting in 1932, democrats nominated Franklin D. Roosevelt who would go on to win four consecutive terms as president because at that time, there were no term limits. Because of that, it became official policy that no president can hold office for more than two terms. After two terms of Democrat Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected for two consecutive terms. Democrats then won the both the 1960 and 1964 Presidential Elections. Then Republicans won two national elections with Richard Nixon as their candidate. Although both Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were defeated in their attempts at winning reelection, such a scenario rarely happens in the divided political era that we have in the 21st century. Tim Kaine would already be at a disadvantage against Trump unless Trump’s approval really falls to 25% or lower and if the economy really sours.
- He would fare poorly in the southern states.The southern states have an ideology that is the exact opposite of what Kaine stands for. The South will not approve of Kaine who is a Democrat that lacks the charisma of Barack Obama. Also, the South is still highly conservative and in favor of owning guns. He stands to lose badly in this region if he is the 2020 nominee for President. He will most likely only win his home state of Virginia because he is so popular in that state. Even if he were to win Florida and Virginia plus all the other states that Hillary Clinton won, if we use the 2016 electoral vote numbers, he would end up with 261 votes which is still not enough for him to win the election. Therefore, unless he can do slightly better in the South, such as winning a state like North Carolina along with Virginia and Florida, then he would beat Donald Trump. The final electoral vote tally in this scenario would be the following:
Senator Tim Kaine: 276 Electoral Votes
President Donald J. Trump: 262 Electoral Votes
However, upon some more analysis, I have calculated that Tim Kaine will perform slightly worse than Hillary Clinton in 2020 if he were the nominee. The final more realistic tally would be the following:
- Donald J. Trump: 310 Electoral Votes
- Tim Kaine: 228 Electoral Votes
Tim Kaine With Former First Lady Hillary Clinton
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Nominating Tim Kaine: The Pros
Now let us discuss some of the pros of nominating this senator in 2020.
- Tim Kaine is a very experienced politician who has served as an employee of the Richmond City council and he's served for two years as mayor of Richmond, Virginia. He has also served as governor of Virginia and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2009 through 2011. He would know exactly how the political climate is in Washington DC and he would be more likely to succeed in his legislative agenda.
- He is a Spanish speaker and because of this, he would make for a very interesting President. How would his knowledge of Spanish make him an interesting Commander in Chief? Mr. Kaine “ran a technical school in Honduras for a year,” (Lord, 2016). He took a yearlong break from Harvard Law School in order to join a Jesuit missionary in Honduras.
- He would improve the global image of the United States around the world for sure. The international community would like to see an American president that is articulate, intelligent, well read, and respectful of people’s differences. The world would also rather deal with a president who is polite and interacts respectfully with foreign leaders. In other words, countries such as France, Germany, and Australia do not want to see a president that insults other leaders or threatens them. The American presidency is neither a business nor a reality show. It is a dignified professional job.
- He is a democrat and historically the US economy has performed better under a democratic administration.
- He would be a great advocate for civil rights in this country. According to PBS, “Kaine focused on civil rights law, specifically representing those who had been denied housing based on race or disability status,” (Greve, 2016).
- He is one of 20 people that have served as a mayor, governor, and US Senator. This wide background of experience and the lack of any real scandals in his past make him an interesting choice for a nominee, even though the party establishment favors him.
- Senator Kaine’s status as a middle-of-the-road Democrat would normally help him in elections. However, the 2016 presidential election was anything but normal. In 2020, we are more likely to see an energized voting base for the Democrats. How would the nomination of Tim Kaine be a pro instead of a con? Writer Harry Enten of the website FiveThirtyEight made several interesting points. He said that Kaine made sense from a logical standpoint for Hillary Clinton. He “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,” (Enten, 2016). In this instance, he would be an asset to Spanish speakers as the nominee, more so than Donald Trump or Mike Pence.
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Final Thoughts About Tim Kaine
This is just an overview of the pros and cons of nominating Tim Kaine in 2020.
- Yes, he is what analysts would call a "safe pick," but there are upsides to his candidacy as well. He could even run for president in 2024 assuming that the Democrats lose in 2020. This may also happen because of the party fatigue factor that I mentioned earlier.
- The bottom line is that even the Mother Jones newsletter/web site mentions that he “is emerging from the campaign relatively unscathed,” (Schulman, 2016). In addition, he is a man so he will not face the misogyny and sexism that Hillary Clinton faced during her presidential campaign.
- The senator may be a “safe pick,” but he is also much younger than Bernie Sanders and he will do better among the moderate Democratic base. It is not enough to win the votes of just the younger generation and the far left as I mentioned earlier. He has a chance to win in 2020 if the economy really gets bad. In addition, as I write this, the Republican party is weakening, thus opening the door for the Democrats to retake the White House in 2020.
- Enten, H. (2016, July 22). Hillary Clinton Picks Tim Kaine, Betting She Can Beat Trump Without A Splashy VP. Retrieved from FiveThirtyEight: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/hillary-clinton-tim-kaine-vp/
- Greve, J. (2016, July 20). 16 Things to Know About... Tim Kaine. Retrieved from PBS Socal: http://www.pbs.org/weta/washingtonweek/blog-post/16-things-know-about-tim-kaine
- Lord, D. (2016, October 3). Tim Kaine: Here are 9 things you may not know about him. Retrieved from Atlanta Journal Constitution: http://www.ajc.com/news/national/tim-kaine-here-are-things-you-may-not-know-about-him/39tjxNhjbd0gZY85sOO4UO/
- Schulman, J. (2016, November 8). 11 Democrats Who Could Defeat President Trump in 2020. Retrieved from Mother Jones: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/democrats-defeat-trump-president-2020/
© 2017 Ara Vahanian