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Tim Kaine has flipped on the Hyde Amendment. Does it matter?

Yesterday, I wrote about Kaine having come out in opposition to the Hyde Amendment. This is, alas, no longer operative. In an interview with CNN this morning, Kaine said that he hadn’t “changed his position” on the Hyde Amendment, which prevents public funding from being used to obtain abortions. The comment was not preceded or succeeded by any qualification that, irrespective of his personal views as vice president, he would support the position of the party’s presidential nominee and platform, both of which oppose the Hyde Amendment.

Substantively, this isn’t the biggest deal in the world. If he becomes vice president, he’s not going to have any effect on Hillary Clinton’s abortion policy. The party’s presidential nominees and its platform are better indicators of the party’s direction on abortion than the vice president’s views, and Clinton is running on the most progressive reproductive rights platform in American history. It is a strike against Kaine should he run for the party’s nomination in 2024, but the short-term impact is negligible.

This flip-flopping and/or miscommunication, however, does undermine the rationale for picking him in the first place. As I mentioned in my piece yesterday, even before this there were reasons for liberals to be somewhat skeptical of Kaine, and I would have preferred Labor Secretary Tom Perez. The argument for Kaine over Perez relied in large measure on the fact that Perez hasn’t held statewide elected office, so he represented a riskier choice than the more seasoned Kaine. Kaine’s inability to stay on message on an issue of considerable importance to the Democratic Party’s base is exactly the kind of mistake the boring-but-experienced-moderate-white guy is not supposed to make.