ARLINGTON, Va. — Though much of the political press corps was in Cleveland for the Republican convention, enough showed up to a morning news conference on Thursday with Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine to elicit mock surprise from the Democratic vice presidential hopeful.
Kaine told the camera-wielding crowd that followed him to his car that he really liked seeing reporters at his events, but he really wasn’t used to seeing so many of them.
It was one of only a few nods Kaine gave to the fervent speculation that he could be picked as Hillary Clinton’s running mate as early as Friday, a subtext that provided a hint of frisson to an otherwise routine appearance at an Arlington, Virginia, church. Kaine answered reporters' questions after the event — closed to the media — billed as a roundtable discussion on immigration policy.
“I’m going to say what I’ve said all along,” he said when asked whether he wanted to be presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s running mate. “I’m a happy senator. I’m not looking for another job.”
He later repeated the line in Spanish for a Telemundo reporter.
Kaine declined to say whether he had any plans for a weekend trip to Florida, where Clinton is scheduled to “roll out” her VP pick, reportedly either on Friday or Saturday. He did not answer a question about whether his family was prepared for the national attention. Though he knelt to give an autograph to 9-year-old Donovan Simpson as he left the building, he did not respond when asked if he is routinely approached by admiring children.
This kid's got his odds on Tim Kaine for VP. 9-year old asked for an autograph at VA event. pic.twitter.com/I8Udeae461— Stephanie Akin (@stephanieakin) July 21, 2016
The brief event, one of two on immigration policy that Kaine has scheduled for the day, offered a glimpse, though, of the attitude and demeanor that has made Kaine a front-runner for second-in-command. In an election overflowing with personality, Kaine — noted for his staid persona — wore a decidedly boring navy blazer and muted red tie.
He slipped in and out of Spanish, a talent he picked up working as a missionary in Honduras after law school and one that is expected to endear him to Latino voters who are angry about Republican nominee Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
“There was no bill out of the committee, no bill on the floor,” he said at one point, referring to a 2013 Senate immigration reform proposal. “Todos estan esperando, esperando, esperando.” (Everyone is hoping, hoping, hoping.)
And he delivered a soundbite-worthy response to Trump’s assertion earlier in the day that he might not abide by the obligation to defend NATO allies in crisis.
“I was stunned,” Kaine said. “Is this the new rule, that your word isn’t your bond? Is the new rule that your promises don’t have to be kept? Is the new rule that your treatises aren’t worth the paper they are printed on?”
His choice of words echoed those of Melania Trump in a Monday night convention address that was widely considered to have been plagiarized from a 2008 convention speech by Michelle Obama.
Donovan, the 9-year-old autograph seeker, was ready to give his endorsement.
“He’s an important person,” he said, adding that Kaine’s was the first autograph he had ever solicited. He was inspired to ask this time for a simple reason: “I think he will be a very good vice president.”