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Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine makes first appearance as running mates

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MIAMI — Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine took the stage alongside Hillary Clinton for the first time in Miami Saturday, offering words of welcome right off the bat: In Spanish.

"Bienvenidos a todos," he said, a phrase that translates to "welcome to everyone."

Clinton and Kaine made their first joint appearance at a campaign rally here at Florida International University, marking the official unveiling of the Democratic ticket that will face off against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, on Election Day.

"Sen. Tim Kaine is everything Donald Trump and Mike Pence are not," Clinton said, with Kaine beside her. "He is qualified to step into this job and lead on Day 1. And he is a progressive who likes to get things done."

She heralded her pick as a man of faith, willing to work across the aisle and committed to furthering the progressive cause.

"In both of our families, faith wasn't just something we talked about at church on Sundays, it was a call to serve others in every way that we can," she said.

And with a grinning Kaine, waving to the crowd and clearly enjoying the moment beside her, Clinton said: "Make no mistake, behind that smile, Tim also has a backbone of steel. Just ask the (National Rifle Association). Over and over again he has had the courage to stand up to the gun lobby in their own backyard."

A former Virginia governor, Kaine brings a wealth of executive experience to the ticket. Friends and colleagues describe Kaine as steady and even-handed, often using the word "decent" to describe his character.

Politically, Democrats expect Kaine could help Clinton rally voters in the important swing state of Virginia, and that his fluency in Spanish will be a big asset as he campaigns in minority-heavy areas of the country.

Rick Ely, a Miami resident attending the event, said he believed Clinton had made a "safe choice."

"I would have preferred to see her choose Elizabeth Warren -- a more progressive agenda that way. But I certainly understand with Virginia being a swing state, the fact that he speaks fluent Spanish, is helpful," said Ely, 58.

Clinton announced her pick Friday night in a message to her supporters, ending weeks of speculation just days ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia that's set to kick off on Monday.

But even as Clinton and her campaign methodically vetted a number of potential running mates, it was clear that Kaine was on the fast track.

Both Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, are personally fond of Kaine and believed he would be a loyal and dependable governing partner.

Aides say as Clinton deliberated over a shortlist of potentials vice presidential nominees, she continued to return to her "unshakable confidence" in his readiness for the job, as well as her personal comfort with him.

During the vetting process, Clinton was advised by her campaign chairman, John Podesta: "It needs to be someone who, whenever they walk into a room, you are glad to see them, and want to have them as part of any conversation."

Ultimately, it was Kaine that best fit that description.

Anita Goldfeld, 76, said she drove seven hours from Boca Raton to see Clinton and Kaine's first event together. Goldfeld supported Bernie Sanders during the primaries but is enthusiastically supporting Clinton -- and now Kaine -- in the general election.

"I think that he is a man who knows, who's had a lot of experience, who would be an excellent asset to Hillary," Goldfeld said.

On the criticism that Kaine is a white, male and ashe himself has put it, "boring," Goldfeld responded: "I'll take boring and knowledgeable -- I'll take a decent human being over someone like Donald Trump."