- The Washington Times - Monday, July 25, 2016

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump marched into Sen. Tim Kaine’s home state Monday and criticized Hillary Clinton for tapping the Virginia Democrat as her running mate, saying it is an insult to Bernard Sanders‘ supporters.

Describing him as a “weird little dude” and a “political hack,” Mr. Trump said Mr. Kaine is out of sync with the liberal base that Mr. Sanders represents and that the record Mr. Kaine compiled as governor pales in comparison with that of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, his vice presidential pick.

Hillary Clinton has bad judgment,” Mr. Trump told supporters in Roanoke. “She shouldn’t have picked this guy because he is the exact opposite of what all the Bernie people want.”

“You could have a liberal person,” he said. “She could have had party unity. Instead, they have thousands and thousands of people going crazy.”

Mr. Trump’s event in Roanoke kicked off minutes before Democrats gaveled in the first day of their national convention in Philadelphia, where Mrs. Clinton is set to become the first female presidential nominee from a major party and Mr. Kaine is poised to accept the vice presidential nomination.

Before the Trump event, former Roanoke Mayor David Bowers, a Democrat, said Mr. Kaine is well-liked in Virginia and that his moderate approach to governance will help Mrs. Clinton stanch the flow of “Drifters,” or “Democrats reluctantly in favor of Trump.”

“The selection of Tim Kaine was a great selection from our viewpoint because it will stop those folks — those courthouse Democrats, blue-dog Democrats, Reagan Democrats — from going over to the other side,” Mr. Bowers said. “I think Virginia is clearly going to be now in the Clinton-Kaine column.”

Mr. Trump received some good news Monday after a CNN national poll showed he got a bounce from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week, giving the New York billionaire a 48 percent to 45 percent lead over Mrs. Clinton.

But Mr. Trump has work to do in Virginia, where he is trailing Mrs. Clinton, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, and is running against recent history.

Barack Obama won the state in 2008 and 2012, thanks to strong support among minorities, college-educated voters and women, and strong turnout in the voter-rich suburbs outside the District of Columbia.

Before that, the state was reliably Republican in presidential elections — outside of Lyndon B. Johnson’s defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964.

The state’s demographics have changed dramatically.

Minority voters now make up about a third of the electorate, and the state is one of the most educated in the nation.

J. Tucker Martin, a Republican strategist based in Virginia, said those factors, combined with the population boom in Democrat-friendly Northern Virginia, could spell trouble for Mr. Trump.

“Look at where Trump’s strengths are, and look where his weaknesses are, and then look at the Virginia electorate and look at how it has been changing. It just doesn’t match up well on paper for him,” said Mr. Martin.

Virginia has 13 electoral votes. It takes 270 to be elected president.

Mr. Trump wants to remake the electoral map this year, and his trip to southern Virginia underscored his effort to drive up support in areas that have struggled economically.

On Monday, he said Roanoke had lost one in three manufacturing jobs since the North American Free Trade Agreement was ratified under the Bill Clinton administration. He also called for normalized trade relations with China and said tens of thousands of those jobs were lost during Mr. Kaine’s time as governor from 2006 to 2010.

“If Mike Pence or me was running Virginia, we’d do great. This guy did a lousy job. You know why? He’s a political hack,” Mr. Trump said about Mr. Kaine.

Stephen J. Farnsworth, political science professor at the University of Mary Washington, said that over the past 15 years Democrats have lost the most ground in southwest Virginia.

“The Roanoke area is tailor-made for the Trump campaign,” Mr. Farnsworth said. “There are a lot of religious conservatives, there is a lot of economic hardship, and there are a lot of people susceptible to the message that things are not as good as they have been in southwest Virginia.”

It remains to be seen whether there are enough voters from these struggling areas to counterbalance parts of the state that have fared better economically — in particular the Tidewater area, which has a strong military presence, and Northern Virginia, which has benefited from the growth of government jobs under the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

“I think Virginia is a really tough lift for a candidate with the message and brand of Donald Trump,” Mr. Martin said. “I think if he finds his way into the White House his route will more likely take him through states like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, as compared to states like Florida, Colorado and Virginia.”

In the March primary, Mr. Trump edged out Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida by a 34.7 percent to 31.9 percent margin, but lost in the densely populated and Democrat-leaning Virginia suburbs of Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties that tend to swing statewide elections.

“That should be a warning sign when you look at what a general election looks like in Virginia because we know where statewide elections are decided in Virginia,” Mr. Martin said.

Mrs. Clinton, meanwhile, defeated Mr. Sanders 64.3 percent to 35.2 percent, throttling him in Northern Virginia.

There are some signs, though, that Mr. Trump is making inroads with disenfranchised Democrats who cannot stomach the idea of a Clinton presidency.

Democratic strategist Dave “Mudcat” Saunders said he is backing Mr. Trump.

Former Sen. Jim Webb, a Virginia Republican turned Democrat, said he won’t vote for Mrs. Clinton and may vote for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Saunders declined to comment for this report, and Mr. Webb could not be reached for comment.

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