Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine returned to Richmond Monday night, telling a capacity crowd at Huguenot High School that the speech he was about to deliver would be “the hardest I will have to make through the entire campaign.”
“How do I sum up, and then give thanks for, 32 years of friendship in R-VA?” Kaine said, referring to the city of Richmond.
The onetime Richmond city councilman and mayor told the crowd that “what I know about public service, you taught me.”
Kaine reinforced Virginia’s importance in this year’s presidential contest, telling the crowd that the last time a Virginia officeholder had been named to a national ticket was John Tyler in 1840.
“It’s been 170 years since a Virginian was vice president or president. Why did that happen?” he asked. “Because we were so bound and determined to push people away because of the color of their skin, and even because of their gender. We called ourselves a commonwealth, but we weren’t living that way."
He added: “We have turned the battleship. It has been painful, it has been slow.”
Barack Obama’s 2008 victory in Virginia, Kaine said, was the “culmination” of the state’s change from political backwater to presidential battleground state.
As chants of “yes we Kaine,” a play on Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan “yes we can,” rose in the crowd, Kaine said Virginia is now a state neither major party can ignore.
“I don’t care whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, or an independent,” Kaine said, “it’s much better to live in a state where nobody can take you for granted.”
The candidate devoted the bulk of his nearly hour-long speech to drawing distinctions between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, relying on one-liners to get his points across.
“I like to boil things down and make it simple,” Kaine said.
“On the economy, do you want a ‘you’re hired’ president, or a ‘you’re fired president,’ ” he said, referring to Trump’s catch phrase from his television show, “The Apprentice.”
“I predict that when this campaign is over, and everyone has forgotten everything about the Donald Trump campaign,” he said, “the one thing they will remember about Donald Trump is ‘you’re fired.’ ”
Kaine also tried to draw a contrast between Clinton and Trump on character, criticizing Trump for his “trash talking” of fellow Republicans, the press, and, most recently, his spat with the family of Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in the Iraq War.
Khan’s father delivered a speech at the Democratic convention last week in which he said Trump had never made any personal sacrifices for his country, a charge Trump immediately disputed on Twitter.
"Captain Khan, killed 12 years ago, was a hero,” Trump wrote, "but this is about RADICAL ISLAMIC TERROR and the weakness of our 'leaders' to eradicate it!”
In a second Tweet, Trump wrote that he has been "viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention. Am I not allowed to respond? Hillary voted for the Iraq war, not me!"
Kaine called Trump’s response "the lowest of the low."
"This family," Kaine said, referring to the Khans, who reside in Charlottesville, are “proud Virginians” whose son attended the University of Virginia. “[The Khans] are us,” he said. “They are us.”
In a statement, Republican Party of Virginia chairman John Whitbeck said the Kaine on display last night would be unrecognizable to the Kaine who first ran for statewide office in 2001.
Whitbeck said that earlier version of Kaine "was conservative,” and as a candidate for lieutenant governor "supported restrictions on abortion, and opposed taxpayer funding for abortion. He said he was a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and ridiculed anyone who said he'd raise taxes.
“Lt. Governor Tim Kaine wouldn't recognize the Tim Kaine running with Hillary Clinton,” Whitbeck said. "But Virginia voters do recognize him as the political chameleon he has become.”
Kaine, however, said the real problem is Trump, and noted that the Republican Convention in Cleveland “looked like Batman 5, it was such a twisted view of everything.
“That was no view of the United States,” Kaine said. “That was a guided tour through the mind of Donald Trump, and that is a very scary place to be.”