Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine accepted the Democratic vice presidential nomination Wednesday in Philadelphia. He used his speech to appease the progressive wing the party, while also taking aim at Donald Trump. And early on, Kaine reminded viewers that his son Nat, a Marine, deployed this week to Europe—to “defend the very NATO allies that Donald Trump now says he would abandon.”
Kaine started off by recycling much of his well-received speech from the previous Saturday in Miami, where Hillary Clinton introduced him as her running mate. Since he was a largely unknown figure nationally before being named to the Democratic ticket, the early portion of his Wednesday address focused on filling in some basic biographic details: child of the Midwest with a sense of morality rooted in the social justice causes of Catholicism; missionary work in Honduras, where he became fluent in Spanish; and a pre-political career as a litigator in Richmond focused on civil rights causes—primarily fair housing. And he made sure to pepper in a few lines of Spanish throughout his speech, which elicited loud rounds of applause from the convention crowd.
Kaine looked a little shaky on his feet at the start, clearly nervous. There was a smattering of voiced opposition from a small number of Bernie Sanders diehards, who chanted “Feel the Bern” and spoke out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. But he picked up steam as he went along, even ad-libbing a line to appeal to the Bernie crowd when he mentioned working in Washington with the Vermont senator. “We should all want to Feel the Bern, and not get burned by the other guy,” he said.
By the time he pivoted to the second half of his speech, focused on criticizing Trump’s record, Kaine was going strong. He ticked through a range of attacks against Trump. Again and again, he delivered a mocking impression of the Trump’s habit of saying “believe me” to back up outlandish ideas, such as the real estate mogul’s plan to make Mexico pay for a border wall.
Kaine ripped into Trump’s business record, accusing him of short-changing contractors and customers. “Retirees and families in Florida believed Donald Trump when he said he’d build them condos,” Kaine said. “They paid their deposits, but the condos were never built. He just pocketed the money and walked away.” Coming from a man who spent his time before politics representing low-income tenants fighting landlords, it was a pretty convincing argument.
For further evidence of Trump’s unfitness for office, Kaine invoked statements from Republicans: Barbara Bush criticizing Trump’s comments on women, John Kasich skipping the GOP convention in his home state because he didn’t want to be associated with Trump.
But in the end, Kaine returned to praising Clinton. Unlike some running mates who tend to linger in the spotlight—hi Joe Biden—Kaine has taken quickly to the second-fiddle role. He closed his remarks by again showing off his Spanish, explaining that he learned in Honduras that the best compliment is “listo,” or “ready”—a term that’s been tied to Clinton’s candidacy since 2013. “Because what listo means in Spanish is prepared, battle-tested, rock-solid, up for anything, never backing down,” Kaine explained. “And Hillary Clinton is lista.”