After all the hype surrounding the blockbuster first 2016 presidential debate, Tuesday night’s veep debate between angry dad Mike Pence and happy dad Tim Kaine promises to be a bit of a snoozefest. But the Clinton campaign has a secret weapon to drum up interest in its No. 2: that one photo of Tim Kaine looking semi-hot.
The photo, which features the much-younger future Democratic vice presidential nominee speaking into a couple of outstretched microphones, first made the rounds not long after Kaine was announced as Clinton’s running mate in July. And it really took off once everybody on the internet realized at the same time that they found the photo of the future senator-slash-governor somewhat good looking.
If the explosion of young Tim Kaine-related content is to be believed, many people found him very to exceptionally good looking. Articles to that effect ran on BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Elle, and the Today show, and even made it all the way to the website of an Australian newspaper. New York magazine’s Sex Lives podcast gushed about the photo (full disclosure: I was a guest on that episode of the podcast). Slate, ever contrarian, went truther on the matter, establishing that maybe Tim Kaine wasn’t as handsome as that photo suggested, although he was, in fact, very handsome in the photo. Other young Tim Kaine photos were also shared alongside the main event: Kaine with his wife and young children, Kaine in a flannel button-down. But none of them were quite as big a hit as Two Mics Kaine.
The Clinton campaign also seems fond of that particular photo of its veep. It was used to tease a HillaryClinton.com listicle called “The 14 Facts You Definitely Need To Know About Tim Kaine (plus photos!)” (The listicle itself, unfortunately, did not include the Two Mics Kaine photo.) On Tuesday, Clinton’s director of progressive media, Zerlina Maxwell, tweeted the same photo, superimposed over a waving American flag and with Clark Kent-esque glasses photoshopped on, along with the hashtag #SuperDad (perhaps a nod to one tweeter, who commented back in July that the Kaine two mics photo slightly resembles Superman actor Henry Cavill).
Unfortunately for the Trump campaign, it doesn’t appear that the GOP understands the power of Two Mics Kaine. Its anti-Kaine ad, which made its debut Monday, features a slow pan across the widely enjoyed photo. The ad has already sparked controversy after the party’s chief strategist compared it to the infamous Willie Horton ad of 1988, which many saw as racist. It’s also objectively tough to attack a candidate using perhaps the most flattering photo of him ever taken.
We reached out to several members of the Clinton campaign to ask if their use of this particular photo was a deliberate attempt to remind debate watchers that Tim Kaine used to be quite handsome. They would neither confirm nor deny.