02-19-2017  6:11 pm      •     
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, accompanied by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., speaks at a rally at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va., July 14, 2016. Clinton has chosen Kaine to be her running mate (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine will debut as a presidential ticket in the crucial battleground state of Florida as they head toward next week's Democratic Party convention.

Clinton ended a monthslong search for a running mate with a Friday evening phone call to the senator from Virginia, the state's former governor and mayor of Richmond. Long viewed as a likely choice to partner with Clinton, he is a fluent Spanish speaker with a reputation for working with Republicans.

"Trying to count the ways I hate @timkaine," Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake wrote on Twitter. "Drawing a blank. Congrats to a good man and a good friend."

Kaine's selection completes the line-up for the general election. Clinton and Kaine will face Republican Donald Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, the Indiana governor.

Kaine, 58, was the choice over Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a longtime friend of the candidate and former President Bill Clinton. Kaine's strong ties to politically important Virginia, as well as his foreign policy experience, put him over the top, according to a person close to the campaign, who insisted on anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the process publicly.

He also had a particularly powerful backer: President Barack Obama, who advised Clinton's campaign during the selection process that Kaine would be a strong choice.

Kaine is viewed skeptically by some liberals in the Democratic Party, who dislike his support of free trade and Wall Street. Shortly after Friday's announcement, Stephanie Taylor of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said Kaine's support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact gives Republicans "a new opening to attack Democrats on this economic populist issue."

Notably, a campaign aide said Kaine made clear "in the course of discussions" that he shares Clinton's opposition to TPP in its current form.

Clinton's campaign teased the announcement throughout Friday, encouraging supporters to sign up for a text message alert to get the news — a favorite campaign method for getting contact information about voters.

The Democratic candidate made no mention of her impending pick during a somber meeting with community leaders and family members affected by the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and a later campaign rally in Tampa.

When the news came via text, she quickly followed it with a message on Twitter: "I'm thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who's devoted his life to fighting for others."

Trump also announced the choice of his running mate on Twitter, and followed it up with an announcement the next day at a hotel in midtown Manhattan — a curious choice given the state's strong Democratic leanings.

Clinton and Kaine, meanwhile, will appear at Florida International University in Miami. Florida is the nation's premier battleground state, and the bilingual Kaine is likely to be a valuable asset in Spanish-language media as the campaign appeals to Hispanic Americans turned off by Trump's harsh rhetoric about immigrants.

Before entering politics, Kaine was an attorney who specialized in civil rights and fair housing. He learned Spanish during a mission trip to Honduras while in law school. During his political career, he's demonstrated an ability to woo voters across party lines, winning his 2006 gubernatorial race with support in both Democratic and traditionally Republican strongholds.

His wife, Anne Holton, is the daughter of a former Virginia governor and is herself a former state judge and the state's education secretary. The couple has three children.
Trump, in a text to his own supporters, said Obama, Clinton and Kaine were "the ultimate insiders" and implored voters to not "let Obama have a 3rd term."

Kaine got some practice challenging Trump's message when he campaigned with Clinton last week in northern Virginia, where he spoke briefly in Spanish and offered a strident assault on Trump's White House credentials.

"Do you want a 'you're fired' president or a 'you're hired' president?" Kaine asked in Annandale, Virginia, as Clinton nodded. "Do you want a trash-talking president or a bridge-building president?"
____
Associated Press writers Alan Suderman in Richmond, Virginia, and Julie Pace and Lisa Lerer in Washington, contributed to this report.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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