When Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence face off in the first and only vice presidential debate Tuesday, they are tasked with staying on message.
Hand-picked by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s campaigns, they have spent the past months with their running mates on the campaign trail, spreading their tickets’ platforms.
In many ways, Kaine was a cautious vice presidential pick for Clinton. As Vox’s Dylan Matthews put it after his addition to the ticket, “Kaine is as boring as he is safe.” Kaine didn’t energize the progressive base as much as Sen. Elizabeth Warren would have, but he is a well-liked senator from a swing state who has voted with his party more than 90 percent of the time.
But despite running as one of Clinton’s most prominent surrogates, Kaine hasn’t always agreed with her. The former Virginia governor, and current senator, has been a career Democratic politician in a historically red state — one that in recent years has shifted left due to changes in state demographics, particularly in the north. In the past, Kaine has held some ideas that the increasingly progressive Democratic base might find surprising; he once ran on a pro-life platform and has been adamantly pro–free trade until this election.
But just as the Democratic Party — including its nominee — has significantly moved to the left, Kaine’s ideas have also migrated quite a bit.
Here’s how Clinton and Kaine agree, and don’t, on some core issues.
On trade, they agreed, then disagreed, and now agree again
Clinton’s opinion on trade has long been messy.
"Some people are generally pro-trade or anti-trade. She’s case-by-case on trade," Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council under Presidents Clinton and Obama, told the Washington Post last year.
As first lady, Hillary Clinton supported the North American Free Trade Agreement — signed in under her husband’s presidency in 1994. As senator, she said NAFTA “had not lived up to its promises” and continued to back away from deal while running for president in 2008. This election, Clinton has stepped back from debating the specifics of NAFTA; at the first presidential debate she responded to Trump’s claim that NAFTA was the “one of the worst things that ever happened,” with a simple, “Well, that’s your opinion.”
Clinton has similarly zigzagged with the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. She was in favor of the agreement while secretary of state under the Obama administration, noting that it "sets the gold standard in trade agreements," but kept relatively mum on its specifics at the beginning of her presidential campaign. Then in October 2015, faced with Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was both vehemently opposed to TPP and garnering growing support, Clinton came out against TPP, claiming the final negotiation didn’t meet her standards — a stance she has maintained since.
Kaine has been consistently pro-trade, until now.
Kaine, however, has been more consistent on free trade: He is for it.
He supported NAFTA — once going so far as to say that opponents to NAFTA had a “loser’s mentality.” In 2007 in an interview with Bloomberg, Kaine explained his support for trade deals. "I don’t think it’s the right policy for the country and I know it’s not the right policy for Virginia to be like all worried, and kind of having this attitude about globalism that they’re trying to steal our lunch," he told Bloomberg. "We can be successful competitors. That isn’t to say that we ought not to be concerned about trade treaties and fair application of patent laws and intellectual property."
He also voted to fast-track TPP — however, in 2015 said he would not vote for the treaty unless the agreement met certain standards. Kaine never formally came out for or against TPP until joining Clinton’s ticket, when he said he opposed the deal on the grounds of labor and environmental provisions, which he said could not be enforced.
“We can’t have a deal that cannot be enforced," Kaine said.
Kaine has come to agree with Clinton on women’s health issues
As my colleague Emily Crockett explained, Kaine’s position on abortion is a bit complicated:
He has said, and still says, that he personally opposes abortion as a Catholic. He has also supported or voted for abortion restrictions in the past — including during his stint as Virginia’s governor.
But ever since Kaine entered the Senate in 2012, he has had a perfect pro-choice voting record, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood.
To put it simply, Kaine’s views on women’s health in 2005 would not have jibed with Clinton’s pro-woman, pro-choice platform. Clinton has even advocated for repealing the Hyde Amendment, which would allow federal funding to be used to pay for elective abortions.
While Kaine has never advocated for overturning Roe v. Wade, he ran his 2005 gubernatorial campaign on many pro-life platforms that angered women’s health advocates, including the enforcement of Virginia’s restrictions on abortion, a ban on “partial birth” abortion, abstinence-focused education, and promoting “crisis pregnancy centers,” which often deceptively dissuade women from having abortions.
However, since then, Kaine has evolved to adopt Clinton’s platform. As governor he voted to defund abstinence-only education and signed legislation to expand Medicaid coverage to include family planning for low-income women. As senator, he has voted consistently pro-choice and advocated against abortion restriction.
Kaine and Clinton don’t quite agree on the authorization of military force
On some foreign policy issues Kaine and Clinton tend to agree: They both supported the Iran nuclear deal. They both are in favor of no-fly zones and safety zones in Syria to protect civilians on the ground.
But when it comes to using military force, procedurally speaking, the two are at odds with each other.
Clinton believes the president has the right to authorize military force to fight ISIS — as did President Barack Obama — citing a law signed after the 9/11 attacks.
But as NPR reported, “the original law authorizing military force was signed in 2001 and gave the president the power to use force against groups which aided the September 11 attacks, not simply terrorists.”
Kaine is adamantly in favor of requiring congressional approval of any military force, and introduced amendments to the defense bill to allow for reauthorization to use military force against ISIS; they were ultimately not considered for the final bill.
“Nearly two years into an executive war against ISIL, the unwillingness of this Congress to authorize the war not only shows a lack of resolve, it sets a dangerous precedent,” Kaine said in a statement as recently as June 2016. “It’s not hard to imagine a future president using this inaction to justify the hasty and unpredictable initiation of military action against new enemies on new fronts without the permission of Congress.”