AP Interview: Kaine already reaching out to GOP

BOSTON (AP) — Tim Kaine is sounding a hopeful note that a Democratic White House could work with Republicans to bridge deep divides laid bare by this bitter presidential campaign.

The vice presidential candidate told The Associated Press on Saturday that he and Hillary Clinton have already spoken about how to heal the nation if they should win. He said tackling economic anxieties, finding common policy ground with the GOP and perhaps bringing Republicans into the administration would be elements of unity, though he added that he and Clinton did not discuss Cabinet positions.

“We have not run this campaign as a campaign against the GOP with the big broad brush — we’ve run it against Donald Trump,” Kaine said. He predicted: “We’re going to get a lot of Republican votes and that will also be part of, right out of the gate, the way to bring folks back together.”

Clinton’s campaign has been preparing for the possibility that Trump won’t concede the election if he loses, based on his assertions that the contest is rigged. Kaine said he hasn’t talked with Clinton about that scenario.

A self-described underdog, Kaine said he only recently began acknowledging the real possibility of victory. He’s hired Wayne Turnage, a former chief of staff, as his transition director and is considering issues he’d pursue as vice president.

“It’s probably only been in the last couple of weeks that I’ve started to think about, OK, the prospect of winning is such that we better start doing some thinking about practicalities,” Kaine said.

As vice president, Kaine said he would hope to be central in forging relationships between the administration and mayors and governors. Kaine served as the mayor of Richmond and governor of Virginia before winning his Senate seat in 2012. He also wants to help shape U.S. policy in Latin and South America, due to his fluency in Spanish and experience as a missionary in Honduras.

Kaine still remains somewhat of an outsider in Clinton’s world. She has developed trusted relationships with several aides over decades and Kaine is a new addition to the mix.

He’s at times been out of the loop on major developments, such as not knowing about Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis in September until days later. The two campaign together infrequently, but communicate by text message, email and phone. Sometimes they talk every few days, but it could be as infrequent as once a week, Kaine said.

Their scheduled joint appearance in Pennsylvania on Saturday was their first event together since Labor Day.

But Kaine said he’s not worried about lacking a voice in a Clinton administration and expects to be a principal adviser to her on the most difficult issues if she wins. He said he thinks Clinton picked him over longtime confidants specifically because he was not a member of the inner circle from way back.

“I’m not worried about, you know, getting my two cents in,” he said.

Kaine said his experience as Virginia’s lieutenant governor and as Democratic National Committee chairman during President Barack Obama’s first term has showed him how to be a strong adviser and asset for Clinton.

Kaine might be well-positioned to work with Republicans, having won three statewide races — lieutenant governor, governor and senator — in historically Republican Virginia, although the state has started going Democratic in presidential contests. Now in his fourth year as a senator, he said he’s already talking with Republicans about working together after the election.

Clinton is stepping up efforts to help Democrats recapture Senate control but Kaine didn’t make a specific pitch for a Democratic Senate. He said he’s more focused on finding policies Republicans and Democrats can agree on.

“I have very good relations with Republicans in the Senate,” Kaine said. “There’s some people who really want to get some good work done.”

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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