TALLAHASSEE – While visiting one of Florida’s historically black colleges on Friday, Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine sought to echo the Clinton campaign’s effort to try to tie Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to some of the more racist fringe elements of the country in what were some of the Virginia senator’s harshest attacks on Trump yet.
“Yesterday, Hillary Clinton gave a speech in Reno, Nevada calling out Donald Trump on a lot of things on this equality idea, calling him out on the fact that he has supporters like David Duke connected with the Ku Klux Klan who are going around and saying Donald Trump is their candidate because Donald Trump is pushing their values,” Kaine told the crowd, referring to Clinton’s pointed speech on Thursday that aimed to link Trump’s campaign to the alt-right corners of America.
"Ku Klux Klan values, David Duke values, Donald Trump values are not American values, they're not our values, and we've got to do all we can to fight to push back and win — to say that we're still about heading toward that north star that we set out so long ago," Kaine said.
Trump directly responded to similar accusations from Clinton on Thursday, telling a crowd in Manchester, New Hampshire, "it's a movement folks like they've never seen before — and they going to accuse decent Americans who support this campaign, your campaign, of being racists, which we're not. It’s the oldest play in the Democratic playbook. When Democratic policies fail, they are left with only this one tired argument: you're racist, you're racist, you're racist, they keep saying it, you're racist. It's a tired, disgusting argument, and it's so totally predictable."
Kaine was speaking to students outdoors on a hot day on the campus of Florida A&M University, a historically black college located in the state’s capitol during their first week back at school. Kaine has made reaching out to African-Americans a pillar of his vice presidential candidacy, with wide-ranging speeches to places like the National Urban League and the Progressive National Baptist Convention recalling his long history on civil rights issues as an attorney and as a local lawmaker in Richmond, a city that is majority African-American.
When asked by a New York Times reporter after the event whether he felt that Donald Trump is "a racist," Kaine didn’t use the word.
"I don’t know him," he said, "but he says things that are clearly prejudicial and bigoted."
During his remarks, the senator kept up his ongoing onslaught against Trump, saying that the Republican had a "bigoted notion that President Obama wasn’t even born in this country and Donald Trump has continued to push that irresponsible falsehood from all the way up to now."
"You’ve heard during the campaign he’s ridiculed people with disabilities, he’s ridiculed people if they had, if they were Mexican American origin. He has said that anybody who’s Muslim should be treated as second class religiously. That’s not the way we do things in this country," Kaine said.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Kaine "sunk to a new low" with the KKK remarks. RNC spokesman Sean Spicer called the comparison "reprehensible."
Kaine gave a specific shoutout to the role that black colleges play in the American education system and touted his campaign’s proposals for them. “Hillary Clinton and I understand the importance of HBCUs and that’s why we have an initiative as part of our education plan to grow jobs in the 21st century to invest $25 billion in HBCUs so we can keep training the talent pool for the 21st century,” he said.
While Kaine spoke before a considerable crowd on the school’s campus, many were there for a regular gathering they have at the school, and a large number of people present were talking during the senator’s remarks.
The event where Kaine spoke was aimed at registering students to vote, and he firmly encouraged those who were there to make sure they turn out to the polls in November as they are living in one of the most critical swing states. “I can tell you this: Florida will be one of the closest, possibly the closest, battleground state this election, and your vote will really matter,” Kaine said.
A Mason-Dixon poll of Florida released Friday shows a very close race in the state, with Clinton at 44% and Trump at 42%.