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‘Zero complacency’ Sen. Kaine warns party unity must be achieved

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WASHINGTON — Virginia’s Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, often mentioned as a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton, warns that party discord may hurt the likely nominee of the party if unity isn’t achieved soon.

In an interview for CNN Political Analyst David Gregory’s podcast, Kaine was asked whether the Democratic primary fight has become harmful to Clinton. Kaine said, “We are getting near that point,” but added he was confident Sanders and his supporters would unify. “There will be a time when he (Sanders) will be working very hard to unify the party and support Hillary.”

Kaine, the former governor of a swing state, was a finalist in the veepstakes back in 2008, but predicted then he wouldn’t be selected. He went on to become Democratic National Committee chairman before his election to the Senate. He’s not anticipating to be on the Democratic ticket with Clinton in 2016, either.

“My gut doesn’t feel much differently this time than last” he said. Kaine stressed, however, he feels this is an “existential” election with a stark choice between Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Kaine is a key surrogate for Clinton, campaigning in the South and as part of the Clinton team’s outreach to Hispanic voters. He speaks fluent Spanish and worked as a Catholic missionary in Honduras.

While some in the party have suggested he may not be the best attack dog against Trump, Kaine is confident he knows how to draw distinctions with other candidates. But don’t look for bluster and name-calling from Kaine; he doesn’t think those tacticts always work.

“If what people want is the angriest guy or the biggest name-caller, I wouldn’t have been elected to the city council in 1994.”

Speaking of Sanders and his complaints about the Democratic primary rules, Kaine, the former DNC chairman, argued the Vermont senator has valid critiques, including the role superdelegates play.

“I didn’t like that. I tried to change it when I was DNC chair, but some of the people on Bernie’s campaign were instrumental in creating that,” he said.

Kaine adds there is much to be learned from the Sanders candidacy about how the Democratic Party is being pulled apart over visions of economic success. The division, he says, is between pro-growth Democrats like himself and pro-regulation, redistributionist Democrats like Sanders.

“We are starting to have a debate that we need to have about how we can have growth that is shared.”

As for Trump, Kaine warns his party it should have “zero complacency.”

“With Trump I’ve always thought it would be unpredictable. You have to assume going in there could be places where we assume victory that suddenly we have to work harder for, but there are also places where the Republicans have assumed victory in the past that suddenly come onto the map and come into play because of Trump. So his candidacy puts a lot of crosswinds into an electoral map that seemed kind of stable.”

Kaine is a man of deep faith and as the author of a book on the subject, I asked him how discussion of faith in politics could become less divisive and more revealing.

“What I think we can do in politics is if we just share with each other what motivates us,” Kaine said. “I’m not trying to convince you to be like me, but will you let me share with you what motivates me and then you share with me what motivates you. That’s not divisive. That’s actually instructive.”