How Hillary Clinton Picked Tim Kaine for Running Mate

Inside Hillary Clinton's vice presidential selection process.

ByBENJAMIN SIEGEL and LIZ KREUTZ
July 22, 2016, 10:03 PM

— -- Like the candidate she picked, Hillary Clinton's vice presidential selection process lacked sizzle.

Unlike the public drama that played out before Donald Trump officially unveiled Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, Clinton's selection of Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, was conducted quietly and out of the public eye.

Clinton began the process in April after the New York primary. Campaign chairman John Podesta delivered 24 binders with information on potential candidates to Clinton's home outside of New York City in an unassuming plastic bag from Duane Reade, a New York drug store.

Then, Clinton started reading.

The former secretary of state reviewed choices with a small group of advisers, including Podesta, senior adviser Cheryl Mills, and lawyer James Hamilton -- who led vetting efforts for the last three Democratic presidential nominees.

President Bill Clinton -- arguably Hillary Clinton's closest adviser -- was intimately involved in the process as well, offering his opinion but understanding that the selection wasn't his to make, according to a Democrat familiar with the former president's role.

The presumptive Democratic nominee spent the following months reviewing her options, and appeared on the campaign trail with many of the candidates -- including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts.

Clinton and Kaine appeared together last week at an event in northern Virginia, where the down-to-earth, Spanish-speaking former governor impressed her on the stump.

"Do you want a 'you're fired' president, or a 'you're hired' president?" Kaine asked supporters, riffing on Trump's reality show "The Apprentice."

After their joint rally, Clinton invited Kaine to her home in northwest Washington, DC, where they spoke privately and huddled with Clinton's aides for 90 minutes.

That Friday, Clinton met with a series of vice presidential candidates in Washington, including HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Warren, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. The following day, she had lunch with Kaine and his family, and were joined by Bill Clinton, Chelsea and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky.

Throughout the process, even as he emerged as Clinton's favorite, the Virginia senator consistently downplayed the vice presidential speculation after his 2008 vetting by the Obama campaign -- as well as his ability to serve.

"Nobody should ever say they're ready for the responsibility because it is so, so huge," Kaine told NBC in late June when asked if he'd be prepared to serve as president.

"I am boring," he also admitted in the interview. "But boring is the fastest-growing demographic in this country."

It was Kaine's steadiness that impressed Clinton most, according to campaign sources -- a confidence in his ability to work alongside her in the White House on Jan. 21, 2017.

But it would be another six days before Clinton settled on Kaine. As Clinton and Democrats watched the often-tumultuous Republican National Convention unfold, Kaine spent the week dodging reporters as he attended constituent events across Virginia.

PHOTO: Sen. Jeff Flake and Sen. Tim Kaine walk to a closed briefing given by Brett McGurk, deputy special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, at the U.S. Capitol, Nov. 10, 2015, in Washington.
Sen. Jeff Flake and Sen. Tim Kaine walk to a closed briefing given by Brett McGurk, deputy special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, at the U.S. Capitol, Nov. 10, 2015, in Washington.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

On Friday afternoon, Clinton walked backstage after a rally in Tampa and made her pitch to Kaine over the phone.

The senator, who took the call from Rhode Island, where he was fundraising for Sen. Jack Reed, accepted Clinton's offer. He'll join Clinton for a rally in Miami Saturday afternoon.

Just before 8 p.m., Clinton and Podesta informed the other candidates that they were not selected in a series of phone calls. As the clock ticked, Clinton's official selection stayed under wraps, to the surprise of those familiar with the often-leaky process.

The campaign officially announced the news Friday night in a text message to supporters.

Clinton's controlled, methodical rollout sharply contrast with Donald Trump's, who had second thoughts about his selection of Pence even after offering him the job and flying him out to New York City.

Trump's offer was reported hours before he officially announced the news in a tweet last Friday morning.

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