PHILADELPHIA — Tim Kaine, the vice presidential candidate next door, pulled away from his house on Confederate Avenue in Richmond on Tuesday morning for the trip north to his nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia — and a song popped into his head.
“We just pulled away from the house, and I broke into ‘We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz,’ ” the U.S. senator from Virginia and former Richmond mayor recounted in a phone interview.
Kaine is widely believed to have finished as runner-up to Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware as Barack Obama’s choice for a running mate in 2008.
This time around, his approach to the process was no different.
“My own and my wife’s approach to life is this, the Linwood Holton line — ‘it’s opportunity time,’ ” he said, citing his father-in-law, a fellow former Virginia governor. “Every day is opportunity time.”
“We have a fairly spiritual view of things. If you’re asked to do something, it’s usually because you’re supposed to do it,” he continued.
“I’ve had that feeling about my career along the way,” he said. “I certainly had that feeling about this.
“I really believed it was going to work out the same way it did in ’08 — that I was going to continue to be a senator,” Kaine added.
“But I feel like things happen for a reason, and when something that you haven’t really sought, campaigned for, kind of just presents itself to you, and it’s an opportunity to do good, the right answer is usually yes.”
Kaine, perhaps better than anyone, knows he’s embarking on a long, strange trip.
After all, it’s not every day that Donald Trump calls you “a weird little dude” and a lousy governor — during a visit to your state.
Kaine offered a one-word response to the Republican presidential nominee’s attack Monday in Roanoke: “Yawn.”
And in just a few more words, part of the brief phone interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the 58-year-old Democrat articulated his reason for embarking on the rough road ahead with Hillary Clinton, and serving as her running mate.
“Donald Trump stands for everything I’ve fought against my whole life,” Kaine said. “And I am very much going to look forward to explaining why.”
Until Friday evening, when Clinton invited him to join the ticket, many people outside of Virginia and Washington did not know Kaine — a fact he acknowledged in his debut speech with Clinton on Saturday in Miami.
Some Democrats, including supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders I-Vt., questioned whether Kaine shares their progressive positions on issues where they differ with Clinton, such as energy and trade.
“There are different wings of the party, and some like me better than others, and some know me better than others,” Kaine said. “For many people, the first thing they ever knew about me, other than what I had done in the Senate, was when I did my talk in Miami on Saturday.
“They didn’t know I was a civil rights lawyer,” Kaine said. “They didn’t know of the battles that I have fought as a lawyer, as a local elected official, as governor. They just didn’t know about those. They didn’t know them because I didn’t talk about them a lot.
“I think the folks that get to know my track record, who see that I have had a life of progressive values not just expressed in words but lived in actions, I think that they will feel comfortable with me,” Kaine continued.
“I think they’ll feel really comfortable with the support that I can bring to a Clinton campaign and a Hillary Clinton presidency.”
Kaine, who served as a No. 2 — lieutenant governor — to then-Gov. Mark Warner, left no doubt that he will stand by his running mate.
“The role that I have said yes to is a role where I will support President Clinton,” Kaine said.
“I will support her positions, and the ability you get in a position like this is to advocate your position directly to the boss. But the job is, when the boss makes a decision, to support it.”
That support extends to Clinton’s position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, about which some have questioned Kaine.
“I am supporting her position on TPP,” Kaine said.
“With respect to the particulars, I voted last year for the trade promotion authority bill to give the president the ability to negotiate the best deal possible, but I said at the time that I was going to be looking at the ultimate deal very carefully, and I laid out a couple of concerns that I had that I was very concerned about,” Kaine said.
“If a company feels like a government action was … an unfair trading practice, they can go to a secret court and file a massive claim against the government’s action,” Kaine continued.
“But if a labor union wants to challenge a government’s action that violates the labor provisions of the treaty, or if an environmental group wants to challenge a government action that violates the environmental provisions of the treaty, these courts are not available to them.
“I’ve raised it repeatedly, and I’ve yet to get any sensible answer about why you would have a provision such as that,” Kaine added. “So I cannot vote for a treaty that has that kind of exclusive, company-only provision.”
Kaine always has been comfortable talking policy. And with decades of political service, he has navigated his share of elections and governing challenges.
But few things, if any, can prepare a person to be a heartbeat from the presidency — or for the impact even the prospect of that opportunity has on one’s daily life.
Kaine enjoyed one last taste of normalcy Tuesday when he met his old friends at the City Diner in Richmond for their standing 7:30 a.m. breakfast.
This time, a host of cameras and reporters were there to chronicle his eggs and toast.
“It’s changing a lot,” Kaine said, during the ride from his Richmond home to the airport.
“We’ve lived both a public life but a relatively low-key one. One of the millions of reasons I love Richmond is that people in Richmond just treat me as Tim,” he said.
“No matter what position I’ve held, they’ve just treated me like their neighbor and a friend, rather than somebody with a title, and that’s exactly how I like it. So the change is beginning.”
Soon there will be a briefing from the U.S. Secret Service. Tonight, he will address the convention and the nation in prime time as he formally accepts the party’s nomination.
On Friday, after the convention, Clinton and Kaine will hold a rally at Independence Mall in Philadelphia before embarking on a weekend campaign bus trip that will take them across Pennsylvania and Ohio — two swing states critical to success in November.
Have harmonica, will travel
In addition to an escort, Kaine will bring his trusty harmonica.
“I play music to release stress, and something tells me there may be some stress over the next 100 days,” he said.
“So you could well see me playing a little bit on the road — not that there’s been any popular demand,” he deadpanned. “But that won’t stop me.”
Kaine, raised in Kansas, definitely is not in Richmond anymore. But he is happy for the opportunity, and for the person who will be at his side — his wife, Anne Holton.
“Anne is great — my great partner in this, always ready to turn things topsy-turvy and try a new adventure,” Kaine said, noting his grown children — Nat, Woody and Annella — all are on board.
“I don’t know all the changes, but I do know that as long as I have my wife with me, we’re going to be fine,” he said.
“I moved to Virginia in 1984, and I only knew one person and it was her, and I was happy. And now I know her and a whole lot of other people,” he added.
“So as long as she’s by my side in this, I’m going to be just fine.”