"The Hillary Clinton campaign has begun checking into the positions, backgrounds and financial dealings of at least three potential vice presidential candidates, Democrats familiar with the process said Tuesday: Housing and Urban Development Secretary JuliÃ¡n Castro, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia."
There may be a longer list as well. It's hard to imagine these three are the top contenders.
Castro is 41 but looks younger than Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., As secretary of Housing and Urban Development, he is a virtual unknown to the American people.
Aside from his HUD position, he has served as mayor and city councilman for San Antonio. That's it. Zero foreign policy experience. Zero accomplishments of note.
If Clinton is running as the grown-up with experience, Castro isn't her man. He's in essence the Sarah Palin VP candidate - a pretty face, a diversity box checked and lacking anywhere near enough maturity to take over if the unimaginable happened. Let's hope that he's on the final list simply as a gesture to the Hispanic community.
Then there is Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. She contradicts Clinton's efforts to pick off disenchanted Republicans. She was an academic most of her life. Nominated but withdrawn as special adviser to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, her sole stint in elected office consists of less than four years in the Senate, in which she is responsible for no significant legislative accomplishment.
She's decidedly left-wing, more in sync with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., than Clinton, whom she belatedly endorsed. She adds virtually nothing to Clinton other than some street cred with the left, which - facing the alternative of Trump - has already rallied to Clinton's side. Other strikes against her: She isn't all that chummy with Clinton, she doesn't help with male voters and she's ambitious herself, something no president really wants in a VP.
That leaves the only remotely qualified choice: Tim Kaine. Here we have someone actually qualified: mayor of Richmond; lieutenant governor and then governor of Virginia; Democratic National Committee chief for a couple of years; and a U.S. senator since 2013. And he's fluent in Spanish. He checks more boxes: He's
• from a swing state
• helps with Clinton's gender gap
• and reinforces her image as a moderate - albeit, unexciting - public servant.
Sure, his response to the 2006 State of the Union was mocked (then again, it's virtually impossible to pull these things off), but that's a plus for VP. Clinton doesn't want a magnetic star; she wants a steady supporter.
Perhaps there are other serious contenders for the spot on the list, although both Sens. Sherrod Brown D-Ohio and Cory Booker D-N.J. would be replaced in states with a GOP governor, a real problem as the Democrats battle for the majority.
If Clinton were a risk-taker, she might reach out to a pro-choice Republican (e.g. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge). But that comes with a host of complications on policy conflicts and invites a revolt in the base.
It should not be surprising that the Democratic pickings are slim. There was virtually no "bench" in the presidential primary, and hence, many Democrats concluded, no viable alternative to Clinton. But let's remember: The only real rule for VP candidates is "Do no harm." That's a role Kaine is probably well-suited for.