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Hillary Clinton Opts for Experience Over Exhilaration in Tim Kaine Pick

Clinton looked for an experienced governing partner to contrast with Drumpf and someone who has no desire to upset a race that currently favors her.
Democratic Presumptive Nominee for President former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton, accompanied by Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), rallies at the Ernst Community Cultural Center in Annandale, Virginia on Thursday, July 14.Melina Mara / The Washington Post/Getty Images

In one of the biggest decisions of her long career in public life, Hillary Clinton opted for a solid, if conventional choice of a vice presidential running mate.

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, whom Democrats had for months assumed she would ultimately settle on, will be acceptable to many in the party, but exciting to few.

The low-risk, but sensible option is in keeping with Clinton’s character. But it’s also a reflection of history, which shows that few voters make their decision based on the second-slot on the ticket.

Even Kaine has called himself "boring," and liberals warn his choice would depress turnout in November.

But boring may be fine for Clinton, who looked for an experienced governing partner to contrast with Donald Trump and who has no desire to upset the dynamics of a race that currently favors her.

"If the number one job of a vice president is to be prepared, you’re not going to find anyone more prepared than him," said Mo Elithee, a former top aide to both Clinton and Kaine. "You don’t find a lot of people out there who dislike Tim Kaine."

Related: Tim Kaine Is Hillary Clinton's Pick as Vice Presidential Running Mate

Choosing not to bend to the anti-establishment winds of 2016, the presumptive Democratic nominee chose one of only a handful of people in American history to serve as mayor, governor, and senator.

Now Kaine will potentially add vice president to a lengthy resume that also include stints as city councilman and Democratic National Committee chairman.

"The choice is bold because conventional wisdom says presidential elections are all about base turnout,” said Matt Bennett, senior vice president of the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way. "Secretary Clinton has rejected that approach, picking a sensible, swing-state centrist. She clearly believes that the way to win in a divided country and to govern in a divided Washington is by making the tent bigger and appealing to common interests."

But the approach has also upset some on the left, who wanted a more strident partisan crusader.

"Her choice of Sen. Kaine is a big 'shut up and sit down' to the progressive wing of the party," said Karen Bernal, a Bernie Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention from California, who is helping to lead a national network of delegates.

Kaine voted to fast-track trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership but has told Clinton he disapproves of the TPP after reviewing it in its current form, according to a Clinton aide. Liberals vociferously oppose the treaty and doubt the sincerity of Clinton’s stated opposition. Kaine is also on the wrong side of progressives on a bank regulation issue, among other issues.

Related: Tim Kaine: A Traditional VP Choice for Clinton in an Unconventional Year

A survey of several hundred Sanders delegates by a pro-Sanders organization found 88.5 percent thought Kaine to be "unacceptable." Many said they would consider protesting his nomination on the floor of the convention next week in Philadelphia.

"It should be disqualifying for any potential Democratic vice presidential candidate to be part of a lobbyist-driven effort to help banks dodge consumer protection standards and regulations designed to prevent banks from destroying our economy," said Charles Chamberlain, the executive director of Democracy for America, which endorsed Sanders in the Democratic Primary.

And after Obama’s presidency, many Democrats of all ideological persuasions had hoped for a person of color on the ticket in 2016.

But the left was late to organize their anti-Kaine campaign, seeming to focus instead on the Democratic Party Platform.

Allies of Kaine say the criticism misses his long career spent fighting for the underprivileged, form his time as missionary in Honduras to his work as a civil rights attorney in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy.

"From day one, Tim Kaine will be a vice president who will work to break down the barriers that hold women and marginalized communities back," said Terry O’Neil, the president of the National Organization for women.

Clinton and her newly minted running mate are expected to appear together for the first time Saturday at a rally in Miami, where he will likely display his fluency in Spanish. "Can’t wait to hit the trail," Kaine tweeted.

Kaine’s diversity of experience, popularity in a key swing state, and willingness to be a team player make him ideal running mate material. So much so that he was a finalists for Barack Obama’s VP slot in 2008.

Obama ultimately passed over Kaine for Joe Biden, who had more foreign policy experience. This time however, it may have been foreign policy that put Kaine over the top.

Clinton also seriously considered Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, with whom she has had a long term personal relationship, as well as New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, among several others.

Clinton’s team vetted liberal hearthrob Elizabeth Warren, but few close to either woman thought the choice likely.

After entering the Senate in 2013, Kaine joined both Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, traveling to more than 23 countries on official business.

Few of Clinton's other options had much national security background, which perhaps explains why they vetted former Admiral John Stavridis, who this week would not even commit to voting for Clinton in November.

Kaine, who had to deal with a legislature controlled either entirely or partially by Republicans during his entire term as governor, is well regarded by the other side.

"Trying to count the ways I hate @timkaine. Drawing a blank. Congrats to a good man and a good friend,” tweeted Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.

Clinton met with Kaine last week after a joint rally in Virginia. And Kaine and his wife joined Clinton and her husband, Bill, and daughter, Chelsea, for lunch Saturday at the Clintons’ home in Washington, D.C.

The highly secretive selection process began in April, when campaign chairman John Podesta delivered binders to Clinton’s home with 30 potential picks. Podesta led the effort to whittle that list down to the one name many would have guessed even then.

Clinton held a succession of meetings with the other candidate Friday in Washington, but Kaine was the only one she called back for a second time.

She made her the decision Friday, according to campaign, calling Kaine and then Obama to inform them.

The timing follows the precedent set by both Obama in 2008 and Romney in 2012, when the news was announced late Friday night before a Saturday rally.