Politics

Liberals Give Kaine's Folksy Dad Style High Marks

Vice presidential debut at DNC Day Three deemed a success

Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine's ill-fitting suit and folksy demeanor at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday played well with some liberal critics. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Tim Kaine wore an ill-fitting suit, addressed the crowd as "folks" and inspired a barrage of dad jokes during his Wednesday night convention speech introducing him to the nation as Hillary Clinton's running mate.  

The delivery was panned as "bland" and "forgettable" by the conservative National Review . Some Bernie Sanders delegates in the hall, who have complained that the Virginia senator is not progressive enough, chanted during his speech and protested his support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But most commentators the day after said Kaine did an admirable job.  

Kaine, with his understated personality and Midwestern bona fides , is meant to carry out the running mate's traditional attack dog role, but also do it in a way that appeals to the flyover country voting block that Clinton needs in November.  

"Kaine sounded like a folksy, jokey Midwestern uncle," Doyle McManus wrote in the Los Angeles Times . "The adjective [Donald] Trump would use — will use — is 'low energy.' He stepped on some of his own biggest lines. But he was just partisan enough — and just riled enough — to tear a strip off the Republican nominee."  

The New York Times style critic wrote almost admiringly about Kaine's "schlubby" appearance. His suit bunched awkwardly at the shoulders, the wide blue and red stripes in his tie, "somehow matched his shirt and blended the two together," and the blue of the shirt was "dull" — but that was the point, Friedman wrote.

"He’s the normal guy, in contrast to a woman in extraordinary circumstances," she said. "The one who doesn’t wear designer duds. The one everyone who doesn’t relate to Mrs. Clinton can relate to. At least, in those clothes he was."

The technology magazine Wired did a lighthearted roundup of the best Twitter dad jokes during Kaine's speech, including the following winners:

And The Atlantic's James Fallows praised Kaine for coming off as happy, comfortable in his own skin and well-versed in policy. He ticked off a list of vice presidential candidates, from Spiro Agnew in 1968 to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who had his star turn promoting Donald Trump's ticket at the Republican National Convention last week. And he put Kaine at the top.  

"Tim Kaine’s debut was the best of these I’m aware of, or can remember," he wrote.  

Even Kaine's inexpert impressions of Trump — in which he lowered his voice a few octaves and drew out the syllables of the words, "Buh-lieve me"— got rave reviews.  

"Tim Kaine just mercilessly mocked Donald Trump," the liberal Mother Jones declared in a headline.  

But not everyone was on board. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza deemed Kaine one of the night's "losers ," noting his "groan-worthy" lines like, "We should all feel the Bern and not get burned by the other guy." Cillizza was also unimpressed by Kaine's "Hey guys!" delivery or the Trump bit.  

"Kaine wasn't actively bad but he wasn't actively good," he wrote.  

But Cillizza also gave Kaine a bit of a pass: "Of course, he wasn't picked to be Clinton's vice presidential nominee because of his soaring rhetorical skills."

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