First, he dropped a Ku Klux Klan reference in a Tallahassee speech. Then, he called out not only Donald Trump as an isolationist but also Florida Gov. Rick Scott as anti-science in a Pembroke Pines gathering with local mayors.
The Tim Kaine who campaigned in Florida over the past two days has sharpened his tongue against Republicans.
His more incisive tone is a reaction to Trump, Kaine told reporters Saturday afternoon in Miami Lakes. Earlier this week, Trump called Hillary Clinton a “bigot.”
“I was pretty stunned by that,” said Kaine, Clinton’s running mate on the Democratic ticket. “That he’s just going to casually say, ‘You’re a bigot’ — well, then it’s important to call out what he’s been saying, who he’s been drawing support from.”
That was a reference to Kaine’s remarks Friday at the historically black Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. He connected Trump’s history as a “birther” who peddled the false notion that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. to Trump’s presidential campaign.
“Ku Klux Klan values, David Duke values — Donald Trump values are not American values,” Kaine told students. “They’re not our values, and we’ve got to do all we can to fight, to push back and win.”
National Republican Party chief Reince Priebus said in a statement late Friday that Kaine had “sunk to new lows with dirty and deplorable attacks which have no place in this campaign.” Trump adviser Stephen Miller said they were “repulsive and repugnant lies.”
Asked Saturday if he was suggesting Trump shared the Klan’s values, Kaine said no.
“What I said was, he’s got guys connected to the Ku Klux Klan who are out, they’re claiming,” he said. “Sometimes he doesn’t disabuse that, and sometimes he seems willing to take advantage of that, and I find that very troubling.”
Kaine briefly answered reporters’ questions after touring Design South Florida, an event-production company in Miami Lakes owned by Tangela and Harold Cummings, a husband-and-wife team that has worked for former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning, a prominent Democratic supporter. The VP nominee’s Florida trip was intended to promote Clinton’s economic agenda — specifically a recently unveiled plan for small businesses.
Earlier Saturday, he addressed a small group of local mayors in Pembroke Pines. Kaine was doing the sort of unsexy but critical work of national campaigns, which depend on local politicians to activate their volunteers and donors on their behalf.
“You are still the network kings,” said Kaine, a Virginia U.S. senator who began his political career as a Richmond city councilman. “What we really need is you putting your networks at the disposal of the campaign.”
During his remarks, Kaine referred to Gov. Scott: “You’ve got a governor who ordered his officials not even to use the term climate change,” Kaine said. “I think Floridians are like Virginians: We are pro-science people.”
Trump, Kaine added, is willing to wreck U.S. diplomatic relations with NATO allies.
“There is a sharp distinction between a Hillary Clinton, who understands the value of alliances and making us stronger, and Donald Trump, who seems to think building walls and tearing down alliances is a path to strength,” Kaine said. “It is a path to isolation, and it’s a path to weakness.”
No campaign trip would be complete without fundraisers to fill the campaign’s coffers. On Friday night, Kaine brought in more than $350,000 for the Hillary Victory Fund at the home of Parkland lawyer and frequent Democratic donor Mike Moskowitz. He also planned to attend a Saturday luncheon at the home of Manny Gonzalez, chairman of the Florida International University Center for Leadership.
Kaine has been frequently deployed to South Florida since Clinton named him her running mate at FIU in July. He headlined a Fort Lauderdale fundraiser and stopped by a soul-food restaurant earlier this month. His Republican counterpart, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, will make his first Florida visit Wednesday, when he’ll campaign in Sarasota. Trump held a rally in Tampa this past Wednesday.
For his part, Kaine promised to be back in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state, “next week.” A RealClearPolitics polling average shows Clinton narrowly leading Trump by 3.3 percentage points.
“If we win Florida,” Kaine said in Pines, “it’s over.”