Kaine's Friendship With Terry McAuliffe Adds to Virginia Governor's White House Ties

A longtime friend of the Clintons, McAuliffe lobbied for Sen. Tim Kaine to be Clinton’s running mate, leaving him with one friend at the top of the ticket and another as her running mate.

Alan Suderman, Lisa Lerer
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Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe and former President Bill Clinton stand together at an event in Mississippi on July 6, 2012.
Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe and former President Bill Clinton stand together at an event in Mississippi on July 6, 2012. Credit: Rogelio V. Solis, AP
Alan Suderman, Lisa Lerer

AP — Soon after Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine accepted Hillary Clinton's offer to be her running mate, he called Terry McAuliffe to say thanks.

Kaine had good reason to be grateful: it's likely that no one lobbied as hard for Kaine to get the job as the colorful former fundraiser and Clinton pal turned Virginia governor.

And with one friend at the top of the ticket and another as her running mate, McAuliffe could find himself with two direct lines to the White House should the Clinton-Kaine ticket win on Election Day.

McAuliffe led the effort to raise money for Bill Clinton's re-election bid, vacationed with the couple after the Monica Lewinsky scandal and secured a $1.35 million mortgage on their house in Chappaqua, New York, after they left the White House swamped by legal debts. He traveled the world with Bill Clinton as a board member for the Clinton Global Initiative, his post-presidential foundation, and he also helped manage Hillary Clinton's 2008 run for president.

"I've known Hillary and her husband Bill for more than half my life," he said in a speech to the Democratic convention Tuesday night, delivered just after she officially became their party's nominee. "I love this woman."

He remains a confidante, golf partner and loyal advocate of both Bill and Hillary. In recent months, he's hosted fundraisers, campaigned across the country for Clinton and alongside her in his home state. He's rumored to be interested in a potential Cabinet post, perhaps Commerce secretary, should Clinton make a return to the White House.

But at times, McAuliffe's deep ties to the Clintons can be problematic. In an interview Tuesday with Politico, he said he believes Clinton will support the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal — with some tweaks — if she's elected president. The agreement is fiercely opposed by many in the Democratic Party.

McAuliffe's spokesman later backtracked, saying the governor was simply expressing what he wanted Clinton to do if she's elected president. Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta responded on Twitter, saying, "Love Gov. McAuliffe, but he got this one flat wrong. Hillary opposes TPP BEFORE and AFTER the election. Period. Full stop."

If there were any hard feelings about the gaffe, they didn't last. McAuliffe was with Podesta and Bill Clinton backstage before the former president spoke to the convention.

McAuliffe demurred on any role he may have had in Clinton's selection of Kaine as her running mate — "Tim got it on his own right," he said — but added that he's struggling to contain his glee. "I'm skipping down the streets of Philadelphia," he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

McAuliffe said he would use his connections with a potential Clinton-Kaine administration to help steer federal funding to Virginia and protect the state's military assets. Virginia is home to the world's largest naval base in Norfolk, making it particularly dependent on defense spending.

"This will be spectacular for Virginia," McAuliffe said.

Republicans see the relationship as ripe for abuse, particularly after McAuliffe was investigated by the FBI over whether political donations to his gubernatorial campaign violated the law. He has not been charged with any crime.

"Terry may be the most powerful unimprisoned governor in the country," said Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. "It's going to be interesting to see what's there. Without Terry McAuliffe and the Clintons, the FBI would have nothing to do."

The governor is not as close to Kaine as he is to the Clintons, but he has played key roles in Kaine's political rise. As chairman of the Democratic National Committee, McAuliffe helped provide a hefty $5 million to Kaine's campaign for governor.

Kaine returned the favor, campaigning and helping McAuliffe raise money for his gubernatorial bid, and some of McAuliffe's top staff previously worked for Kaine. McAuliffe also appointed Kaine's wife, Anne Holton, to be his secretary of education. Holton resigned on Monday to devote herself to her husband's run for vice president.

Should Clinton and Kaine win the White House, McAuliffe will pick Kaine's replacement in the Senate. Asked if he's interested in the potentially open Senate seat himself, McAuliffe was unequivocal.

"I'd never do it," he said.

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