(CN) – Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has chosen Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine to be her running mate, ending weeks of speculation just days before the start of the party’s national convention in Philadelphia.
Clinton announced her decision Friday night via text message shortly after an appearance at the state fairgrounds in Tampa, the start of a three-event swing through the Florida.
Kaine is expected to join Clinton on the stump at Florida International University in Miami on Saturday.
The timing of the announcement was aimed to shift attention away from this week’s just-concluded Republican National Convention, and blunt any bump in the polls the GOP nominee Donald Trump might receive following his acceptance speech Thursday night.
Kaine, 58, has been a favorite for the vice presidential slot since the start of Clinton’s search process.
He has been active in the Senate on foreign relations and military affairs and built a reputation for working across the aisle as Virginia’s governor and mayor of Richmond.
“I’m glad the waiting game is nearly over,” Kaine told reporters Thursday after an event in northern Virginia, deflecting questions about whether he was about to join the ticket.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a longtime friend of Hillary and Bill Clinton, was said to be in the Veep-stakes to the end, according to a Democrat
Kaine is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and worked as a lawyer on fair housing and civil rights issues.
But his selection is not without complications.
Some liberals have expressed concern about Kaine for his support of putting the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement on a “fast track” to approval, which both Clinton and primary rival Bernie Sanders oppose.
They also note that Kaine recently signed onto a letter asking for less burdensome regulation of regional banks.
But President Barack Obama reportedly backed Kaine’s selection, telling Clinton he believed the senator would be a strong choice for the ticket.
Earlier this week, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that Kaine was someone Obama believes would be a good pick for Clinton.
“Senator Kaine was one of the first public officials to announce a public endorsement of Senator Obama,” Earnest said. “Senator Kaine served as the chair of the DNC during President Obama’s first year in office, and Senator Kaine is somebody that the president deeply respects.”
Former President Bill Clinton is also said to have been high on his selection.
Another champion of Kaine for vice president was Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe who told Politico that he believed Clinton “would feel very compatible working with someone like Tim Kaine.”
“He’s a very thoughtful, quiet negotiator he doesn’t really care about the limelight,” the governor continued. “She’s worked with folks like Tim for years. He’s in it for the right reasons he didn’t jump at the chance to run for the United States Senate. He was perfectly happy to go be a university professor. He doesn’t have to do this for the big rah rah he can really help people. It’s unique for a lot of folks.”
Now that Kaine has been picked as Clinton’s running mate, McAuliffe, a Democrat, will get to choose a temporary replacement.
An election to fill the remainder of the senator’s term will take place in 2017.
Clinton also considered Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of liberals; Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; Labor Secretary Tom Perez; and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.
But Kaine had been considered a leading vice presidential contender for weeks based on his broad political experience in Virginia, another presidential battleground.
“One of the main reasons that I’m being considered is because of Virginia,” Kaine said. “It’s not necessarily just because of me. It’s because Virginia is really important.”
The Virginian is seen as a safe choice against Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Kaine could help Clinton woo moderate voters who have been turned off by Trump’s provocative rhetoric.
Kaine campaigned with Clinton last week in northern Virginia, where he spoke briefly in Spanish and argued that Trump was unqualified, untested and untrustworthy.
“Do you want a ‘you’re fired’ president or a ‘you’re hired’ president,” Kaine said in Annandale, Virginia. “Do you want a trash-talking president or a bridge-building president?”
Kaine took a year off from law school as a young man to work with Jesuit missionaries at a vocational school in Honduras.
His wife, Anne Holton, currently serves as Virginia’s secretary of education and is the daughter of former Virginia Gov. A. Linwood Holton Jr., a Republican. The couple have three children; their eldest son, Nat, is serving as a Marine.
Although Clinton’s pending announcement of her vice presidential pick was much on the minds of attendees of her Tampa rally, the candidate chose to hold her cards close during her appearance. Rather than tip her selection, she chose instead to focus on her Republican opponent and the speech he gave in accepting the GOP nomination less than 24 hours earlier.
“His vision of America is we’re kind of helpless and we need to be rescued,” she said, and she positioned herself as the alternative to what she derisively called “Trump’s dark vision.”
“I can’t really see him on a white horse,” Clinton added, inspiring a wave of laughter among the 3,600 in attendance.
“He doesn’t understand we Americans are a strong, big-hearted, results-oriented, generous people,” she said.
Tampa is an important campaign stop for Clinton. The city, along the I-4 corridor, is seen as the most important battleground in the larger swing state of Florida.
And perhaps that is why, instead of announcing her running mate, she decided instead to focus squarely on the opposition.
“Did any of you watch this convention in Cleveland?” she asked, her mention of the just-concluded Republican National Convention drawing loud boos from the audience. “It was kind of perversely flattering. It’s hard to believe Trump spent so much time talking about me and not jobs and education.”
Clinton even brought up Texas Senator Ted Cruz, if half-heartedly.
“Something has gone wrong when one speaker says, ‘Vote your conscience’ and gets booed,” she said. “I never thought I’d say these words, but Ted Cruz was right.”
With that, the largely gray-haired, racially-diverse crowd began chanting: “Hillary! Hillary!”
“I’ve never heard of an American leader or at least someone who wants to be an American leader saying he’s all we need,” she said. “That’s not a democracy, friends”
Without pause, Clinton continued with calls for common-sense gun legislation and a more uplifting tone for America.
“The last thing we need is to divide us even more than we are,” she said. “I will work every single day to make your dreams come true, to make you believe America’s future can be even better than our past.”
But she took one last dig at Trump.
“The last thing we need is someone running for president that talks trash about America,” she said to cheers. She finished her speech extolling the crowd to “Love Trump’s hate.”
Although short on specifics, Clinton’s speech seemed to resonate with the spectators.
“I thought it was really positive and I like the fact that she’s trying to dispel a lot of the hate in this country,” said Joyce Russell, 66. “I don’t hate Republicans. We can’t personalize it.”
Toni Richards-Roley called the speech “refreshing.”
“Compared to the last four days in Ohio, it was a nice to see a true representation of America in [the hall],” the 44-year-old said. “Black, white, gay, straight.”
Her son, Will Roley, didn’t feel the same about the speech.
“She said Trump only talked about her, but what did she do? Talk about Trump,” he said.
Although Jim Begg, 65, would have liked more policy proposals, he said he understood today was a long day for Clinton.
“I think people need to be more united than spending time calling people names,” he said.
Begg, 65, was a long-time Clinton supporter, even volunteering for former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. He brought his 16-year-old son, Alex Begg, to the rally to see democracy in action.
The younger Begg took away a similar message to others after the speech: “I like the general idea of unification”
While in Florida Friday Clinton made an impromptu stop at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the site of the deadly shooting rampage that killed 49 people.
Clinton was joined by Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, first responders and community residents at the makeshift memorial outside the club.
She placed a bouquet of white flowers at the site next to a candle and a framed picture of a cross.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton accompanied by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., left, speaks at a rally at Florida International University Panther Arena in Miami, Saturday, July 23, 2016. Clinton has chosen Kaine to be her running mate. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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