When President Obama revisited on Wednesday the values he was taught by his Kansas grandparents, he painted a near perfect portrait of the same "heartland" values that both Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine are a product of:
They didn't like show-offs, they didn't admire braggarts or bullies.
They didn't respect mean-spiritedness or folks who were always looking for shortcuts in life. Instead, they valued traits like honesty and hard work, kindness, courtesy, humility, responsibility; helping each other out. That's what they believed in.
Kaine grew up in Kansas while Clinton was raised in a suburb of Chicago. As a daughter of the Midwest myself, I know it’s a place where you don't tout your accomplishments, you let the work speak for itself. And as Obama exits the stage as the standard-bearer of the Democratic party, he's leaving it to two candidates who clearly embody that Midwestern ethic, with both its upsides and downsides.
Tim Kaine's acceptance speech itself gave us a little taste of what's to come. He did not exude the fire of Joe Biden's "We are America. Second to none. And we own the finish line!" Nor did his speech have the dreamy aspirational qualities of Obama's graceful prose. And completely true to heartland form, Kaine seemed mildly uncomfortable laying out his biography as a mayor turned governor turned U.S. Senator.
But where he excelled was in mocking Donald Trump—a guy who Kaine likely finds repugnant to his core. Trump is exactly the type of zero-substance blowhard that Kaine didn’t seem to mind castigating one bit, inspiring one of the most memorable riffs of his Wednesday night acceptance speech:
"It's gonna be great [...] We're gonna build a wall and make Mexico pay for it [...] We're gonna destroy ISIS so fast," he jested, punctuating every assertion with an exaggerated "Buh-leev Me!"
But even Kaine's rich sarcasm in that moment came off as a good-natured jab—less attack dog than Panda bear. In fact, his speech unleashed a round of "Dad jokes" on twitter, poking fun at his Dad-next-door quality.
Tonight it's Hillary Clinton's turn. Frankly, she's not much better at talking about herself on the trail than Kaine is, a quality that she too comes by honestly. Fortunately, the Democrats have crafted a convention filled with her biography so she won't have to revisit it.
Honestly, I’m not looking for her to necessarily “wow” people—it's not her way. What she's likely to deliver is something closer to a reflection of the many voters she's spoken with across the country. If she can let Americans know that she’s heard them and envision a way forward from here, that will provide a solid foundation for a Democratic ticket that’s less “talker,” more “doer.”
Watch Kaine’s Trump riff: