Former vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine is back in campaign mode nearly two years after his first ever electoral defeat, saying his reelection bid for the U.S. Senate will focus on inclusivity and economic opportunity.
The Virginia Democrat kicked off a weeklong tour of the state Monday with events in Richmond. He told reporters his campaign would highlight the need for a Virginia that works "for all." The line is a nod to the last passage of the Pledge of Allegiance and is a sentiment Kaine said is missing from the tenure of Republican President Donald Trump.
"I'm worried about that tendency of the president. I think he's more of a 'me-first' than 'for all,"' Kaine said.
A former Richmond mayor and Virginia governor, Kaine is now running his 10th campaign. His only loss was in 2016 as a Hillary Clinton's running mate. Kaine said a major lesson from that loss was that Democrats need a "crisper" message on the economy.
"I'm planning on winning the economic argument in this race," Kaine said. "I know more about the Virginia economy and how to make it work than any of the people running against me."
Kaine was first elected to the Senate in 2012 in a highly contested race against George Allen, a former governor and senator. This year's race is expected to be far less competitive, with Kaine the early favorite.
Three Republicans vying to take on Kaine this year: They are Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors; Nick Freitas, a state delegate; and E.W. Jackson, a minister. They have limited political experience and will likely struggle to match the fundraising pace of Kaine, who said he plans to raise about $25 million in total this campaign cycle.
Kaine's campaign swing this week is set to include 22 stops and feature guest appearances from U.S. Mark Warner, Gov. Ralph Northam, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and others. Khizr and Ghazala Khan, who spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention about their Army captain son's combat death in Iraq and criticized Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric, are also scheduled to campaign with Kaine.
This year's campaign will be decidedly more low-key than Kaine's last one, which included his own airplane, around-the-clock Secret Service protection, and regular appearances on national television. Kaine said the security bubble from that campaign felt stifling and he's looking forward to more retail politicking.
But Republican National Committee spokesman Garren Shipley predicted Kaine may find cooler welcomes on the campaign stump after his stint as Clinton's running mate.
"The Clinton-Kaine campaign spent all of 2016 telling everyday Virginians that they were 'deplorable,"' Shipley said. "Places like Virginia Beach, the Shenandoah Valley, and Southside Virginia aren't likely to forget what the Clinton-Kaine team said about them."