When Tim Kaine was running for governor in 2005, as is normal, they did a fly-around the weekend before Election Day. Traveling with Kaine was Barack Obama. Truth be told, at their appearance in Norfolk, people were much more enamoured with Kaine than they were with the junior Senator from Illinois.
In February 2007, Kaine announced his support of Obama’s presidency and has served as a national co-chair of his campaign. Kaine has been a cheerleader for Obama, both here at home and throughout the country. His no-so-subtle arm-twisting of various folks, both in the General Assembly and outside of it, resulted in a number of people jumping on the Obama bandwagon.
His high profile has not gone unnoticed by political pundits. When all of this first started, I figured such talk was just that: talk. After all, Kaine leaving the governor’s mansion a year early would mean leaving Virginia with a Republican governor. At the same time, I looked at the political landscape in Virginia for Kaine and it is indeed bleak. There is no reasonable political future in Virginia for the 50-year-old Kaine. While I originally thought that Virginia Democrats would never forgive him for leaving us Bill Bolling, the truth is that the governor may never really need our support again, at least not ours alone. If asked, I think Kaine will accept the VP slot. The only downside for Kaine is that if the ticket loses, he’s out of politics a year earlier. Not much of a downside. And the upside, even if the Obama/Kaine ticket loses, is that he has raised his national profile, putting him in a position to run for the presidency down the road.
This morning’s talk shows were full of “Kaine for VP” talk. Perhaps it is because some higher profile candidates – Jim Webb and PA Governor Ed Rendell, among them – have removed themselves from consideration that Kaine’s stock has risen. There are those who think that Kaine, despite his lack of foreign policy experience, would add value to the ticket by putting Virginia in the Democratic column for the first time since 1964. The electoral math seems to indicate that the path to victory for Obama runs through Virginia. While I remain unconvinced that Virginia will turn blue, the odds are higher than they have been for years, mainly due to the presence of Mark Warner on the ticket.
So what does it do for Virginia if Kaine is on the ticket? Well, for one, it puts the Republican Party of Virginia in a tough spot. At this point, they have already decided that AG Bob McDonnell will be their nominee and LG Bill Bolling will run for re-election. Should Bolling be elevated to the governor’s mansion, does he step aside and allow McDonnell to run? Or does he run instead, despite his reasons for not pursuing the nomination? I find it difficult to believe that Bolling would step aside. In fact, serving as governor kinda makes his reasons (commitment to family and colleagues) moot.
A second thing that Kaine on the ticket may accomplish is a settling of who the Democratic nominee for governor will be. I believe Kaine has been reluctant to negotiate a compromise between Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate Brian Moran because he needed the support of both of them in order to try to advance his agenda in the General Assembly. Freed of this, Kaine could sit the two of them down and work out a compromise, drawing straws if necessary. Avoiding a costly (and potentially nasty) primary would work to the advantage of Democrats in 2009, setting the stage for a third consecutive Democratic governorship. And it would go a long way towards healing whatever animosity Democrats in Virginia would have towards Kaine for leaving us with Bolling.
Finally, if Obama/Kaine is a winning ticket, can you imagine the value of having the sitting VP campaign for the Democratic candidate in Virginia in 2009? Virginia has a long history of chosing its governor from the opposite party of that of the president. If Kaine campaigns vigorously for the gubernatorial nominee, and Virginia Democrats remain engaged, the potential for a Democratic governor goes way up. (And if Bolling is the Republican nominee, they go way up.)
So I’m coming around on the idea of Kaine being VP. (Despite my support of Hillary Clinton, however, I do not believe she should be the VP. But that’s a post for another day.)