WASHINGTON Democrat Hillary Clinton was close to announcing her vice presidential candidate on Friday, with leading contender U.S. Senator Tim Kaine seen as a safe choice that allows her ticket to present itself as a steady alternative to the unpredictable campaign of Republican rival Donald Trump.
Kaine, from Virginia, would give Clinton a running mate with wide governing experience but picking the self-described "boring" senator could anger progressive groups hoping for a more liberal choice.
Kaine had a clear edge over two other candidates among the final contenders: Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a Democratic source with knowledge of the discussions said.
Clinton's campaign declined to comment.
Clinton is expected to announce her running mate through a text message or Twitter, possibly as early as Friday when she has two afternoon events scheduled in Florida. NBC News said she would make the announcement on Friday.
The former secretary of state, will be formally nominated as the party's presidential candidate for the Nov. 8 election at next week's Democratic convention in Philadelphia. She leads Trump in many opinion polls.
Clinton's choice of a running mate would provide a signal about her plan of battle against Trump and help give her campaign momentum as the fight for the White House enters a key stage.
She spent Wednesday and Thursday at home in New York to consider her vice presidential pick. The former first lady has repeatedly said the question of who would make a good president if required to step in for her was at the forefront of her search.
Kaine, well-liked in the Senate and a veteran mainstay of the Democratic establishment, could fit that criteria as a former mayor of Richmond, governor of Virginia and head of the Democratic National Committee.
Clinton acknowledged in an interview earlier this week that even Kaine admits he is a boring, and said she did not mind.
'I LOVE THAT'
"I love that about him," she told Charlie Rose of CBS News and PBS. "He's never lost an election. He was a world-class mayor, governor and senator and is one of the most highly respected senators I know."
If she chooses Kaine, Clinton will bypass vice-presidential candidates who would have generated excitement among liberal and Hispanic activists, including progressive favorite U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and two Hispanic Cabinet members, Julian Castro and Thomas Perez.
Booker, a charismatic rising star in the party, could give her candidacy a jolt of energy as Clinton enters the three-month grind of the general election. Booker, 47, would be the first black vice president and could help boost turnout among young and African-American voters.
Kaine, 58, is a Catholic and a fluent Spanish speaker after serving as a missionary in Honduras. He has expressed personal opposition to abortion, but has a strong public record in support of abortion rights.
Liberal Democrats oppose a free-trade deal with Asia that Kaine supports, and Hispanic activists may be annoyed that Latino candidates were once again passed over for the running mate spot.
Kaine could help Clinton in Virginia, a heavily contested swing state, and would be replaced in the Senate by another Democrat chosen by Democratic Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a close friend and ally of Clinton.
He has good relations with senators from the opposing party, according to senior Senate Republican congressional aides. One aide speculated he would be effective in reaching out to congressional Republicans if he becomes vice president, a role Vice President Joe Biden has played for Obama.
Amy Dudley, a spokeswoman for Kaine, said the senator will be in Boston on Friday for a long-scheduled fundraiser. She would not comment on whether Kaine had any other travel plans on Friday or this weekend.
Trump concluded the Republican convention on Thursday night with an acceptance speech denouncing Clinton's legacy of "death, destruction, terrorism and weakness" as U.S. secretary of state.
The convention underscored Trump's struggle to heal fissures in the Republican Party over his rhetoric on immigration and concerns about his temperament. The event was boycotted by many big-name establishment Republicans.
Obama said on Friday that the dark vision presented by Trump in his acceptance speech was not based on facts.
Clinton has faced her own struggle unifying Democrats and winning over liberal backers of Democratic primary rival Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont. A choice of Kaine would not help that effort.
Liberal groups have pressured Clinton to avoid Kaine, who backs the Pacific free-trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Critics of the deal, including Trump and Sanders, say it would be unfair to U.S. workers and kill jobs.
Clinton praised the deal when she was secretary of state, but has since distanced herself from it.
(Editing by Alistair Bell)
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