Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., returned to his Virginia roots Wednesday in vice presidential candidate mode – flanked by Secret Service, trailed by national press and ready to attack Donald Trump.
Kaine entered a ballroom to a rousing welcome from the Virginia delegation at its breakfast. After spinning some political anecdotes, he quickly pivoted to the election, praising Hillary Clinton and delivering his most forceful rhetoric to date on the Republican presidential nominee's fitness for office.
“What an opportunity to make history,” he told the enthusiastic crowd, who unlike previous mornings in Philadelphia, seemed more riveted to the speaker than to than to their bacon and eggs.
Kaine thanked Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who advocated strongly for his selection in conversations with Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton.
“I wouldn’t be the nominee if it weren’t for him,” he said of McAuliffe.
Kaine praised Hillary Clinton’s qualifications as a candidate, and her historic role as potentially the first woman president. He said she would “open up who we are as a nation,” grow the economy and that she has the “right ideas about how to be strong in the world.”
Then it was on to Trump.
“The most foolish thing you can do is to shed the alliances we have in the world…and Donald Trump is a one-man wrecking crew when it comes to the alliances,” said Kaine, referring to Trump’s stand on NATO and posture toward Russia and Vladimir Putin, whom Kaine called a “Big Bad Wolf.”
Kaine, a former civil rights attorney, said the most important thing to him about the election is that it’s “a civil rights election.”
He talked about Trump “making fun of people with disabilities…using demeaning and offensive language when he talks about women,” saying Trump “offends women every time he opens his mouth.”
He said Trump “trash talks new Americans, trash talks Mexicans…he talks about anybody of a Latino background as if they’re a second-class citizen. Hey, we don’t have any second-class citizens in this country. We’re all first-class citizens.”
Pivoting to the military, he referenced Trump’s characterization of the American military as a “disaster,” questioning how someone who thinks that could be commander in chief.
He said Trump has used “every trick and dodge he can to avoid paying taxes, and that’s why he’s not giving up his tax returns,” noting that tax dollars fund programs that support veterans.
"Tim Kaine can attack all he wants, but he can’t distract Virginians from the fact that he’s a political chameleon," said Garren Shipley, Virginia communications director for the Republican National Committee. "He’s gone from being pro life to pro choice, from supporting TPP to opposing TPP, and from claiming to be a conservative to claiming to be a progressive. Just like Hillary Clinton, he’s willing to say anything to be elected."
Kaine said the election is about whether to build “a community of respect, or whether we decide that a politics of division, that sadly, we know held Virginia back, and our nation back for a very long time, is back in vogue and we start doing it again.”
“We say we’re a commonwealth,” Kaine continued. “We’ve got to live like a commonwealth.”
Perhaps the most emotional moment of Kaine's time with the delegation came at the end of his remarks. Kaine turned quiet and spoke about Joe Montano, 47, a Senate staffer from Manassas who died suddenly late last week after accompanying Kaine on events in Northern Virginia.