ANNANDALE, Va. — They say that in a democracy, we get the candidates we deserve.
Perhaps that is why on a sweltering Thursday afternoon in Northern Virginia, the former Secretary of State and presumptive Democratic nominee to be President of the United States felt it was necessary to make a dad-joke about Pokemon Go.
Hillary began addressing a packed gymnasium and, in her typical Hillary style, extolled the virtues of free community college and early childhood education. Then this happened:
“I don’t know who created Pokemon Go,” she said, referring to the app game that millennials like to play at Holocaust museums and cemeteries, “but I’m trying to figure out how we get them to have Pokemon Go To The Polls!”
The crowd laughed and clapped and cheered, delighted with this high wit. And perched on a counter stool behind her, Sen. Tim Kaine -- in his veep tryout -- beamed.
They also say that campaigns are about contrasts, and there probably has never been a bigger one than what divides Clinton from presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
While Trump discusses his complicated feelings for Saddam Hussein and his extremely uncomplicated feelings about NAFTA, Clinton expounds on her delight at the prospect of America increasing its clean energy output. If Clinton picks Kaine as her running mate, she’ll be able to double-down on mild-mannered wonkiness that let her white-knuckle it through the Democratic primary. Like Clinton, Kaine is even-toned, sunny, and placid.
If Hillary Clinton is our national grandma, then he is America’s youth pastor.
And that could make him a surprising choice as her running mate.
Despite Bernie Sanders’ withdrawal from the race, Clinton’s poll numbers -- both nationally and in a few swing states -- have sagged, and stubbornly. A recent CBS/NYT poll, in fact, showed her tied with Donald Trump at 40 percent. And a Huffington Post aggregation of favorability ratings shows that in the last year, more people view her unfavorably and fewer people view her favorably. Conventional wisdom holds that campaigns in bleak situations like this one should look for ways to take risks and change things up.
But by testing out Kaine as a potential running mate, Clinton seems to be doing the opposite. Side by side on Thursday, the pair were stylistic twins: dinging Trump adorably, touting sunny views of the future, and urging civility -- almost like a contest to see who could be nicest.
And if there’s one thing that 2016 isn’t, it’s nice.
Their rhetorical approaches are complementary. They both like alliteration and groups of threes and the kind of cutesy quips that delight swing-state voters and make reporters want to scratch their eyeballs out.
Gone was the sharp Trump-centered insults lobbed by liberal firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Instead, Kaine opened his remarks by sharing the glee he felt when he learned the committee trying to recruit Clinton to run for president was called “Ready for Hillary.”
“It was very exciting for me that they chose that name and let me tell you why,” he said. “‘Ready for Hillary,’ powerful phrase.”
He then explained that in Honduras -- where he went on a Catholic mission trip several decades ago -- “listos,” the Spanish word “for ready,” is a high compliment.
Then he segued to this zinger, the first of three questions he posed the attendees: “On the economy, do you want a you’re fired president or a you’re hired president?”
Judging by the crowd’s delighted cheers, one can safely assume they prefer the latter.
“Do you want a trash-talker president or a bridge-builder president?” he added.
And, finally: “Do you want a me first president or a kids-and-families first president?”
Clinton seemed pleased with Kaine’s line of inquiry.
“What Tim said really is worth considering,” she told the crowd when she stood to speak. “Do you want a you’re fired or a you’re hired president? Do you want a trash-talker or a bridge-builder?”
The crowd roared and Kaine raised a fist in good cheer at her mention of the “bridge-builder” descriptor.
“I like that one a lot!” she said, happily.
The crowd also liked her reference to Trump’s “woman card” comment.
“Deal me in, deal me in!” she chanted along with them. “That’s exactly right!”
Attendees were comparably delighted by Hillary’s other favorite things -- a Maya Angelou reference, a detailed summary of a song from “Hamilton,” and a rousing soliloquy on the importance of white papers. And, of course, an alliterative preemptive attack on the Republicans’ upcoming convention in Cleveland.
“It is going to be entertaining I’m sure,” she said, pausing -- “if you’re into bigotry, bluster, and bullying!”
Brace yourself: because if this duo hits the road together, it’s only going to get more precious from here.