The first lesson of picking a Vice President is to do no harm. Indeed, the pick is the first test of competence for a prospective president. It is said that a vice-presidential pick has little effect on a national election. That is mostly true, but somewhat misleading and shortsighted when one views the current electoral map. Vice Presidents rarely win a President many votes, but they sure can help in their home state.
While Mr. Trump and his merry band of insurgents play checkers, dreaming of winning unwinnable states such as Pennsylvania, the Clinton campaign is playing chess. They know the map favors her, and they know that to increase the odds of winning they need to increase the odds of holding the map. That’s why Tim Kaine will be the Vice Presidential pick for Mrs. Clinton.
Whatever moral, legal, or political failings birddog Mrs. Clinton, her campaign is competent, and Democratic electoral math is easier and more predictable. It’s simple, really. For Trump to win, he needs to take back Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia. Failing to win back all four, he would need to flip back multiple other states. For Clinton, she wants to make that job harder than it already is for team Trump. Virginia is the right place to bet on the hold. It continues to grow its population in heavily democratic northern Virginia, an area some downstate not-so lovingly refer to as “occupied Northern Virginia.”
Senator and former Governor Tim Kaine is mighty popular in the Commonwealth. Hillary’s massive strength in ultra-liberal Arlington, Alexandria, and large swaths of Fairfax give her a strong electoral advantage. Kaine provides the swing she will need in Loudoun and Prince William, both of which showed little love for Mr. Trump in the primary. Loudoun is purple, and Prince William leans red. Kaine can keep both of them blue. If that happens, Trump cannot find enough votes in all of Virginia to flip the old dominion. That means Mr. Trump needs to find either a Pennsylvania or two others states on top of winning back North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio. The Virginia hold, therefore, becomes a nearly insurmountable electoral leap for Trump.
Mr. Kaine reeks of competence, and his résumé exudes moderation, even if he is a decidedly liberal Senator. I wouldn’t vote for him, but many people I know would support that ticket because he alleviates their Clinton fatigue syndrome. People like him and trust him, and that is not how one might describe Mrs. Clinton. No other candidate discussed by team Clinton provides her the same proven, nearly certain, electoral hold.
The Democratic Party does nothing without dividing and counting by race. As such, Corey Booker and Julian Castro received, as they should have, VP consideration. In the end, however, team Clinton simply cannot bet that any marginal advantage in black and Latino votes nationwide that might happen through selecting either of these choices would be enough to help her win or hold any one state. Bill Clinton and President Obama will be working on the black vote, as Democrats fear a lower overall turnout.
Mr. Trump, he is working on the Latino vote for democrats, which is growing in size each year, and shrinking in GOP support each election. Democrats know this. They have cynically done the math, projecting upticks in Latino votes to fill in projections of lower African-American turnout. On top of this, Kaine speaks fluent Spanish.
At this point, picking anyone but Kaine makes no sense for the Democrats. Kaine is able to win Virginia for Mrs. Clinton, and in so doing, he makes it nearly certain she will trump the divided GOP party and prevent it from winning back enough swing states to win the White House.