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Posted at 2:32 PM ET, 02/ 9/2011

Tim Kaine for Senate?

By Ezra Klein


James Webb will not run for reelection in 2010. That means, I'd think, that some members of the Obama administration had better be on the phone telling Tim Kaine to get in the race. Kaine is a former governor of Virginia, and by all accounts, popular in the state. If anyone can hold Virginia's second Senate seat for the Democrats, he can.

But the White House hasn't always taken the recruitment of challengers that seriously. In 2008, they brought Iowa's Tom Vilsack, Arizona's Janet Napolitano, Kansas's Kathleen Sebelius, and Colorado's Ken Salazar into the administration. The payoff? They almost lost Salazar's Senate seat and Democrats had to find weaker candidates in Iowa, Arizona, and Kansas. It stands, to me, as the administration's single most baffling set of political decisions. There were plenty of other people capable of running the various cabinet agencies. There were no other people capable of replacing the threat Vilsack would have posed to Chuck Grassley or that Napolitano would've posed to John McCain, and thus no one who could've done as much to convince them that cooperating a bit on initiatives like health-care reform would be in their interest. Similarly, Sebelius was the only Democrat in Kansas who even had a chance of winning the state's open Senate seat. Why pull her to Washington in a different capacity?

Even now, Sebelius and Napolitano and Vilsack and Salazar have to spend a lot of time figuring out how to guide the administration's agenda through the Senate. The irony is they would've been much more effective in that capacity from the outside. Similarly, Kaine is reported to be very close with the president. Obama even elevated him to chairman of the Democratic National Committee. But it's pretty clear now where Kaine could do the most to help the White House, and it's not in another appointed position.

AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari.

By Ezra Klein  | February 9, 2011; 2:32 PM ET
Categories:  2012 Presidential  
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"James Webb will not run for reelection in 2010."

You mean that he won't run again in 2012?

Posted by: JohnRose | February 9, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse


I don't think that the White House in 2008 was thinking just how hard it would be for Democrats in 2010. Remember in 2008 it was suppose to be the END of the Republican party and two years later there was a GOP landslide. So bringing in those prominent Democrats into the White House in 2008 made sense for they were some of the best people for the job.

Now that 2012 is coming next there are people in the White House who are much more savvy then the people that were there in 2008.

Plouffe I am sure is talking to Obama about what is better which is to push Kaine to run for Senate or keep him at the DNC.

If I were Obama I would push Kaine to run for Senate in Virginia. Kaine is relatively popular in that state and both Obama and Kaine could work together and WIN that state in 2012.

We shall see...

Posted by: maritza1 | February 9, 2011 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Tim Kaine might be Obama's choice, but Tom Perriello is THE PEOPLE'S CHOICE for many Virginians around the Commonwealth.

I don't particularly care for this idea that Democrats only have one option for a candidate who can win. "On the Ground" Democrats are the people who do the campaigning, who turnout for the primaries, who get out the vote. They are the people who got Webb elected against great odds in 2006. I think the PEOPLE will decide this one and NOT "the Party."

Posted by: csread | February 9, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Kathleen Sibelius and Janet Napolitano would have been term-limited in 2010 anyway; its not like they could have held those seats after 2010...

Posted by: MilesC56 | February 9, 2011 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Vilsac didn't have a chance of winning in IA. Incumbent Senators here can serve as long as they like. He knew that. If anyone thought Grassley could have been beaten, Christie Vilsac would have run.

Posted by: davidp3 | February 9, 2011 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Jim Webb had a good chance of winning against George Allen up to and until the moment he voted against repeal of the PPACA. In fact, among Virginia's fiscal conservatives, Webb is surprisingly more popular than George Allen.

Neither Tim Kaine (nor Tom Perriello, an incumbent Representative who couldn't even carry his home district against relatively unknown Robert Hurt) stand a chance against George Allen. All appearances are that Kaine is in the race simply as a placeholder who's been given the opportunity as a reward for party loyalty. In Virginia, though, party loyalty is seen as a negative: for a good example, count the number of Virginia statehouse Democrats who voted in favor of suing to invalidate the unconstitutional individual mandate. The Congressional map of the Commonwealth is decidedly red -- and even the (three) remaining "blue" districts in Virginia are conservative.

On the bright side, this means that there's now a 95% chance that control of the Senate -- and therefore the entirety of Congress -- will pass to The People after the next election.

Posted by: rmgregory | February 9, 2011 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Maybe you'd be more optimally placed doing policy work at think tank instead of working as a journalist at the WaPo. But guess what? You get to decide what you want to do with your life, just like Sebelius, Napolitano, Salazar, and Vilsack get to pick what they want to do with their lives. Their presence in the Senate would have changed the constraint of the Senate GOP filibuster not at all.

Posted by: jamusco | February 9, 2011 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Tim Kaine and the Democrats should pour millions into Virginia. They should fight to their last dime. They will lose by 20 points.

Posted by: jy151310 | February 9, 2011 10:24 PM | Report abuse

I hope that Tim accepts the challenge when BHusseinO begs him on behalf of party and country. It would be fun to watch all the big bucks and visits from The Won and then see Tim do a death spiral in the general election, like about a dozen other Dems will do, unless BO can get the economy moving again. And with his team, that ain't gonna happen.

Obama will do for Kaine what he did for the Bears, jinx him to defeat...!

Posted by: djman1141 | February 9, 2011 10:49 PM | Report abuse

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