Kaine’s cure for election defeat: Diving back into work

WASHINGTON — Sen. Tim Kaine, of Virginia, told WTOP on Thursday that being part of the losing ticket in the presidential election earlier this month was “tough,” but the cure was diving back into work.

The Democratic nominee for vice president, Kaine said that although most people were surprised by his and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s loss to Republican Donald Trump, he “never really believed the polls” that showed Clinton cruising to victory.

He recalled telling Clinton in 2014, “if you run, you’re gonna be the underdog no matter what the polls say, because you’re trying to the first woman president in the history of the country. If it had been easy, there would have been a woman president before this.”

Still, although Kaine said he had done a good job “holding my expectations down” for most of the campaign, there was a narrow window — what he termed “a head fake” — where he thought things were going well.

Kaine said he kept an eye on the Virginia returns on election night, particularly the Chesterfield County results, which he said had acted as a bellwether in the past. About 45 minutes after the polls closed, Kaine said, it looked like they would win Virginia by a larger margin than President Barack Obama had won the state in 2012.

“So from about 7:45 to about 9:30, I let myself feel good,” Kaine said.

But as the Midwestern states came in, the results didn’t look so good. “By about 9:30 or 10, I was like, ‘I’m not sure this is gonna work out.’”

The best consolation, Kaine said, was that “I’ve got work to go back to. If you’re down about something, throw yourself into your work.”

SINCE RETURNING TO CAPITOL HILL, Kaine has worked on the defense authorization bill, as well as a bill with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., another unsuccessful presidential candidate, to combat anti-Semitism in Europe.

It “will help the State Department and Europeans work together to combat anti-Semitism and protect religious freedom for Jews and society at large,” Kaine said in a statement.

Kaine said his colleagues of both parties “couldn’t be more gracious” in their dealings with him since his return, even if at least one had a laugh at the same time. Deb Fischer, a Republican from Nebraska, told him, “We’re glad you’re back, for a number of reasons,” Kaine said.

John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, who lost the 2008 presidential election to Obama, told him “Tim, there are very few people who understand what you’re feeling right now, but I understand,” Kaine recalled.

“I have very strong relationships in the Senate, with both Democrats and Republicans,” he added. “Because you can disagree with people and still get along with them, and I work very hard to do that. And they’ve been very gracious.”

Kaine is also back to working on an issue that’s been important to him in the past: demanding a congressional vote on a declaration of war against ISIL. He’s previously said Congress lacks “the backbone to do their job” on the issue, preferring to await the results of any conflict before declaring whether they were in favor.

“I’ve been willing to be tough on this administration and Congress,” he said. “We have been at war for two and a half years now with ISIS with no vote of Congress. Congress has been afraid to go on the board.”

On Wednesday, Kaine gave his first post-election floor speech to honor of Chief Petty Officer Scott Dayton, of Woodbridge, who on Thanksgiving Day became the first American serviceman to die in Syria. But Kaine also called on Congress to act.

“We ought to be defining what the mission is against ISIS and other terrorist organizations, and have Congress say yea or nay,” he said on Thursday. “Because we shouldn’t order people to risk their lives if Congress isn’t even willing to have a debate or a vote.”

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Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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