Unless he, too, decides not to run next year, Gov. Tim Kaine represents one of the few cases in the Democratic Party where the stand-in for a retiring U.S. Senator has an equal if not stronger chance of getting elected.
Kaine was supposed to make an announcement about his 2012 plans in the hours after Sen. Jim Webb’s declaring he would not seek a second six-year term. But, alas, this column’s deadline intervened before Kaine’s expected statement, and so we are left with asserting that, if he did run, Kaine would be one of the strongest Democrats in any of the 2012 races anywhere, with the exception perhaps of the president, himself.
He has just the kind of stature that could snuff out the “red state revival” in Virginia that followed its “bluing” earlier in the decade with a rapid sweep of GOP races in the last two years.
Kaine was a big part of the “bluing” that led to statewide victories by Democrats Sen. Mark Warner in 2001 for governor and 2008 for the U.S. Senate, for Webb in 2006 and Obama in 2008, and, of course, Kaine, himself, for governor in 2005.
One of Obama’s earliest backers when no one thought he could win the Democratic nomination for president, Kaine ran into the one-term limit for governor in 2009 and went on to chair the Democratic National Committee, maintaining a high national profile and a distinction in that office that his GOP counterpart did not share.
Kaine was so popular among Democrats that he was on the short-short list as a vice presidential candidate to run with Obama in 2008. Former DNC chair and Clinton heavyweight Terry McAuliffe made national headlines in the fall of 2008 when he touted Kaine over Hilary Clinton as the best V-P choice, a story that first broke in my mighty Falls Church News-Press.
In fact, there were reports that thousands of fake eyebrows were readied for distribution to the faithful at the Democratic National Convention in Denver to mark the anticipated choice of Kaine – celebrating his famous undulating eyebrows that kick in when he makes passionate points in speeches and TV interviews.
Kaine’s chances of winning, were he to fill in for Webb in a run for the U.S. Senate next year, are excellent. Not only is he perhaps the only candidate in Virginia who could beat Republican George Allen, but he could win by a landslide if the Tea Party-backed GOP candidate wins that party’s nomination this summer.
That will come down to whether the state’s GOP opts for a convention or an open primary. In either case, the Tea Party alternative, Jamie Radtke, who recently left her post at the head of the Tea Party in the state to announce her run for the Senate, could come away with the GOP nomination.
In the meantime, there will be plenty of time for accolades to celebrate the achievement of Sen. Webb, the biggest of all being his decision to run for the Senate almost to this day five years ago.
At that time, an unimpressive party regular had been christened by the party establishment to be its candidate against Allen in the 2006 race. Since the party had veritably conceded the race, they deferred to this candidate because he had enough money to fund his own campaign.
But along came Jim Webb, with bonafides deemed impressive enough to some in the party that he could actually upset Allen. This writer was among them, and my newspaper, the Falls Church News-Press, was one of only two in the state to endorse him in the June 2006 Democratic primary, risking friction and shunning from Democratic regulars by so doing.
The rest is history. On election eve in November, I went to bed thinking Webb had made a great run, but came up short. But, when day broke and the dust cleared, he was still standing, waving the flag of victory.
He’s not disappointed since, a staunch patriot and Democrat, fair handed and candid in an unusual way for an elected official, having to do with his being a journalist for most of his life, I would like to believe, and not an attorney.