When vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine joined Stephen Colbert on an episode of The Late Show last week, there was an opportunity for Kaine to show a softer side of the Democratic campaign. After weeks of the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees lobbying insults and criticisms back and forth, a late-night talk show seemed the perfect placement for a candidate — as long as Kaine could roll with the punches. Turns out, he could: Kaine embraced the "dad" label he's received from Colbert and the rest of America.
The dad jokes about Kaine began during his speech at the Democratic National Convention last month. Maybe it's his endearing-but-sometimes-awkward personality or the fact that he actually is a father of three, but the dad label just seems to fit him. His appearance on the Late Show started with a kinda-funny, kinda-awkward sketch featuring Colbert, Kaine, and actor Tony Hale of Veep. Hale fell into his on-screen role as the vice president's bag man, helping Kaine remember forgotten words in his conversation with Colbert. Kaine was a good sport, going along with the fun, but the sketch undeniably came across as stiff. Later in the show, Kaine made another dad move: He got up to play harmonica with the show's band, a la dad who wants to be cool at your backyard birthday party.
As Colbert himself pointed out during Thursday's show, many Twitter users agree with the dad assessment. He showed Kaine a selection of headlines and tweets relating the VP candidate to a dad.
Kaine took the jokes in stride — and he even embraced the label. "Are you OK with not being cool?" Colbert asked. Laughing, Kaine responded as any true dad would. "I've been prepared for that for 26 years, because I have three children, who have been ripping on me and saying those things about me since they were born."
In November, Kaine could become much more than a dad joke if he and Hillary Clinton win the presidential election. Kaine's appearance on the Late Show was also an opportunity for the former Virginia governor to defend Clinton against the attacks that Donald Trump and the Republican campaign have lodged against her. He pointed to her decades of experience in fighting racial injustice — and to Trump's past business failures and lawsuits.
If America wants a relatable dad-like figure, voters might have no problem adopting Kaine as their favorite dad and vice president. That doesn't mean the road to the White House will be all dad jokes and harmonica performances for Kaine, though. He'll likely still have to keep defending Clinton from the incessant attacks coming from the right.