Attacking Trump, Democrat Kaine makes campaign-trail debut

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MIAMI/WASHINGTON Tim Kaine made his first appearance on the campaign trail as Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate on Saturday, urging Democrats to make history by putting Clinton in the White House and leaping to attack Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s record.

Joining Clinton at a rally in the battleground state of Florida, the bilingual Kaine peppered Spanish-language phrases into a speech focused heavily on introducing himself to voters unfamiliar with the low-key U.S. senator from Virginia.

Kaine criticized Trump’s recent suggestion that he might not honour U.S. security commitments to NATO in Europe, and the real estate mogul’s history of casino bankruptcies and founding the failed Trump University.

“When Donald Trump says he has your back, you better watch out,” Kaine said, with Clinton sitting at his side nodding. “He leaves a trail of broken promises and wrecked lives wherever he goes. We can’t afford to let him do the same thing to our country.”

Clinton unveiled her choice of Kaine late on Friday, grabbing the political spotlight from Trump, who accepted the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday night after a chaotic four-day convention.

The former secretary of state will formally be nominated as her party’s presidential candidate in the Nov. 8 election at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, which opens on Monday.

In choosing the soft-spoken Kaine, a former Richmond mayor and Virginia governor with a long establishment resume, Clinton opted for a steady and experienced hand who she hopes will offer a clear alternative to Trump’s volatile campaign and his Republican vice presidential choice Mike Pence.

“Senator Tim Kaine is everything Donald Trump and Mike Pence are not. He is qualified to step into this job and lead on day one,” Clinton told the Miami crowd.

In his speech, Kaine described his childhood in Kansas City helping his father in his metal-working shop and his Catholic mission to Honduras, where he helped teenagers with carpentry and welding and they taught him Spanish.

FAITH, FAMILY AND WORK

He said in Honduras he learned the values “Fe, familia, y trabajo” — faith, family, and work.

Kaine became emotional when he recalled the 2007 shooting deaths of 32 people at Virginia Tech University during his stint as governor, calling it the worst day of his life. He promised to take on the National Rifle Association and fight for “common sense” gun control.

“I’ve never lost an election. I’m 8-0 and I promise you I’m not about to let that change,” he said.

Judith Sweeney, 58, from West Park, Fla., said she knew little about Kaine before the joint appearance but said she was impressed by his resume and liked his civil rights work and school reform efforts. “Wonderful, very experienced, an innovator,” said Sweeney who was in the crowd.

Clinton is hoping Kaine will help her appeal to independents and moderates, but some liberal groups and supporters of Clinton’s Democratic primary rival, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, were dismayed by the choice because of Kaine’s past advocacy for giving the White House fast-track authority to negotiate an Asian free-trade pact.

But in a nod to party liberals, the Clinton campaign said Kaine will not support the still pending final version of the 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership. Kaine’s Senate spokeswoman confirmed on Saturday his opposition to the pact.

Clinton passed over liberal candidates who would have generated more grassroots enthusiasm like U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Hispanic Cabinet members Julian Castro and Thomas Perez.

Clinton tried to reassure party liberals about Kaine, offering an extended list of his efforts on behalf of low-income workers, education and civil rights, and for expanded gun control laws and immigration reform.

“He fights for the people he represents, and he delivers real results,” Clinton said, applying one of her favourite self-descriptions to him. “When I say he’s a progressive who likes to get things done, I mean it.”

Trump delighted in the Democratic discord that followed Kaine’s pick after failing to close the fissures in the Republican Party during his own convention.

“The Bernie Sanders supporters are furious with the choice of Tim Kaine, who represents the opposite of what Bernie stands for. Philly fight?” Trump said on Twitter on Saturday.

(Editing by Alistair Bell)