He is also, by his own admission, "boring." And while he's not quite reviled on the left, he is resisted –- viewed with skepticism over his past views on social issues, and current stances on financial and national-security ones.
Clinton was being pressured to select a prominent progressive or a big personality to round out her ticket. She could have opted for a racial or ethnic minority, or for generational balance with any of a handful of 40-something rising stars.
Instead, she went for something close to a male version of herself. They will pitch themselves based on their experience and confidence in using government for positive purposes –- even if they embody the establishment that's so reviled these days.
"I've been able to see how government works, and how sometimes it doesn't, from just about every perspective," Kaine said Saturday, in his first remarks since being named Clinton's running mate
Oddly, though, the choice of Kaine is similar to Donald Trump's choice of Mike Pence: safe, flash-free, and about qualifications more than personality. Clinton and Trump are big enough figures by themselves that they don’t need help in that department.
Yet choosing Kaine is intended as a contrast to Trump -– picking someone who will help govern, while exuding confidence and competence. The hope is that he's also someone who will help Clinton win: delivering Virginia alone could essentially clinch the election for the Democrats, with states like Nevada and Florida also perfectly suited for Kaine’s moderate brand and bilingual skills.
Kaine is no natural attack dog. But he responded to Trump's slogan in a way that allows the new ticket to exude a certain optimism that isn't all that natural for Clinton herself.
To the candidate who promises to "make America great again," Kaine asked the crowd: "Isn't it great already?"