Kaine for VP?

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.)

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13 thoughts on “Kaine for VP?

  1. (Despite my support of Hillary Clinton, however, I do not believe she should be the VP. But that’s a post for another day.)

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on that, but in the meantime, I’ll say that I’m glad that you’re not one of these PUMA people.

  2. I remember that appearance with Obama at Lake Taylor High School very differently, I was working for Kaine and staffed that event and remember when it was over Obama having to do a sprint back to the car with people running afther him. I stayed with Kaine and remember him looking at me with a big grin and says “this is like traveling with the beetles”, as the crowd rushed past him! I still can’t see him as VP but who knows, they are sure talking like he is the one on Sunday morning TV today.

  3. Kaine doesn’t bring what is needed to the ticket — no foreign policy experience, no military experience, no glowing track record as governor (yet), no wide net of connections for money and/or influence. However bright and kind he is, there is nothing specifiic there to point to as a reason to have him on the ticket.

    The word for the last couple of months has been he is next in line as the president of UVA. Casteen is retiring soon, and Kaine is VERY popular with the higher education crowd, and moreso with the UVA crowd. He seems to be much more comfortable in the academic setting than the push-and-shove of politics.

  4. Gulls:

    And yet, Kaine’s numbers in this state are still positive. Perception is reality. The more the talking heads put Kaine up for a possible VP slot, the more his nationwide status grows.

    Also, about the academic vs. politics setting: have you seen Kaine campaign?!?! The guy is a master campaigner. He can woo a crowd or throw an elbow with the best of them. Just look at what he did last year for the legislative candidates. Went across the state and raised over a million dollars for our candidates. There is no doubt, Gov. Kaine is very, very comfortable on the campaign trail. All you have to do is look at what he’s done this year for Obama already.

  5. sj – you may remember it differently because you were behind the scenes. I was out front, with the average folks.

    Gulls – I don’t disagree that there are shortcomings for Kaine as a VP pick. Truth be told, though, he’s a safe pick. One of the points that was made on one of the talking head shows Sunday morning is that Obama can’t afford to choose someone as a running mate who compares favorably to him in terms of foreign policy, etc. It would just make him look bad.

    But I have to disagree that Kaine doesn’t enjoy politics. There’s no way that anyone moves up the ranks as quickly as Kaine has done without enjoying it. And Sean is right: he’s quite the campaigner.

  6. Kaine would certainly take the VP slot if were offered to him, but that offer won’t be coming. Sen. Obama and his advisers are smarter than that. If he just had to have a Virginian on the ticket, he’d be better of with Sen. Jim Webb (who is highly overrated in his VP value).

    As for LG Bolling And AG McDonnell, they have an agreement worked should this scenario unfold. Both men would run for reelection to their (then) current offices. Sorry to ruin everyone’s fun on this point.

  7. Catch up, Brian. Webb removed himself from consideration for VP. That’s part of the reason that Kaine has moved up the ladder.

    As for this so-called agreement – got any source on that? (Your own credibility was shot when you mentioned Webb.)

  8. Vivian, I understand Sen. Webb’s position. I guess that I would simply say that he found himself in a predicament. The Obama campaign decided that was he an overrated VP candidate and moved on. If they were to decide otherwise, I suspect that Webb would find a way to slip out of his promise. You don’t really believe that Webb adds a bunch rural Virginia votes to the ticket do you?

    As for the “so-called” agreement between Bolling and McDonnell, yes I do have two sources on that. Email me if you want the quotes.

  9. I’m actually not entirely sure Kaine brings voters to the table in Virginia who wouldn’t support Obama anyway. My top choice was Ted Strickland in Ohio because he has very positive poll numbers in that state despite lackluster African American support (for those of you playing at home, that means white blue collar voters love him). He appeals to the precise opposite part of the population as Obama’s base in a swing state that has elected him before; broadening the ticket’s appeal in this state with two well-known figures who together appeal to such a wide segment of the population would likely move Ohio comfortably into the “win” column. By contrast, the base of Webb and Kaine’s support is concentrated in regions that (if the primary is any indication) will swing heavily for Obama anyway.

    (I don’t buy into this notion of needing to put someone on the ballot with foreign policy experience, as I don’t think anyone running to be leader of the free world should seriously consider “I’ll let my Vice President handle that” as an acceptable answer to a question about anything important. Obama will live or die on his ability to maintain credibility on his understanding of foreign policy, as well as his ability to keep the focus of the conversation on McCain’s greatest weakness, the economy).

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