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Minnesota delegates mixed on Kaine ahead of VP nomination speech

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Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine earlier this month.
Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine at a campaign event earlier this month.
Andrew Harnik | AP

As Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine prepares to accept the Democratic nomination for vice president Wednesday night, some Bernie Sanders supporters are still questioning whether he has the progressive credentials they want to see in a vice president. 

Sanders supporters were hoping for a ticket that balanced their candidate's left-of-center philosophy with the more moderate views of Hillary Clinton. Many felt let down when Clinton announced Kaine, a St. Paul native, last week, instead of a better known liberal such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. 

"I was disappointed at first. He's got a conservative record, especially as governor, on a lot of issues," said Christopher Meyer, a Sanders delegate from Minneapolis.

Meyer said he was troubled by Kaine's changing views on a number of issues, including same-sex marriage and trade. He questions Kaine's recent flip from supporter of the Trans Pacific Partnership to opponent. 

But Meyer, who said he will vote for Clinton in November, said his opinion has been evolving as he learns more about Kaine.

"I talked to a lot of my progressive Virginia friends, people I respect and trust, and they vouch for him," he added. "They said that as a senator he's been a lot more progressive. He's moved as Virginia has moved. They all vouch for his character and say he's one of the kindest people they know."

Still, many Democrats aren't yet sure. Asad Zaman, a Sanders delegate from Inver Grove Heights, has a mixed opinion on Kaine's progressive credentials.

"Well, so I have two hats. I'm a progressive. From a progressive perspective, Kaine is not a progressive. However, I'm also Muslim, and he has a long history of reaching out to the Muslim community. So, I see some glimmers of hope there," Zaman said.

Recent polls show Kaine is largely unknown by voters. Many delegates also say they don't know a lot about him.

Jessica Andrist, a Clinton delegate from Monticello, Minn., said she likes what she's learning about Kaine and hopes skeptical Sanders supporters will, too.

"Tim Kaine might not be the most progressive, but he's going to actually help us move things forward," she added. "So, we've got some great ideas. I think he's going to be a terrific leader. He already is. The people who might not ever get behind him, we don't know if they'd ever get behind our ticket anyway."

During his introduction as Clinton's running mate last weekend, Kaine spoke to a Miami audience in fluent Spanish. The campaign has highlighted his mission work in Latin America as young man.

Jose David Gallardo, a Clinton delegate from West St. Paul, said he thinks Kaine's language skills are impressive. Gallardo said Kaine could help Clinton attract more Spanish-speaking voters.  

"I mean right off the bat, the people that are maybe feeling a little uncertain or might not be sure of some their policies, it signals her commitment to things like immigration reform," Gallardo said.

Minnesota delegates received a ringing endorsement of Kaine earlier this week just as the national convention was getting started. 

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar told the state contingent that she knows Kaine well and described him as "a pretty amazing guy," one of only a handful of politicians to have served as a mayor, governor and U.S. senator. 

"His whole life has been devoted to public service and to do the right thing," she said. "He is more than ready to lead."