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Fix Pick: Kaine for (University) President?

Barack Obama and Tim Kaine

Barack Obama thanks Va. Gov. Tim Kaine for being an early supporter, as Va. Sen Jim Webb watches at the start of the rally at Nissian Pavilion in Bristow, Va. Photo by Richard A. Lipski of the Washington Post.

Speculation regarding whether Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine will be Barack Obama's vice presidential choice is reaching critical mass these days.

But, if Kaine isn't the pick, what does the political future hold for him? A front-page story from Saturday's Richmond Times Dispatch may provide the answer.

The piece details the decision of Virginia Commonwealth University president Eugene Trani to step down from the post next July and quotes several people affiliated either with VCU or Kaine who suggest he might be a candidate for the job.

Consider these key paragraphs from the piece:

* "VCU Rector Thomas G. Rosenthal acknowledged that Gov. Timothy M. Kaine might be interested in the job after completing his term six months after Trani steps down. 'If the governor wishes to apply, we would be honored,' Rosenthal said."

* "William H. Leighty, Kaine's former chief of staff, said the governor has expressed interest openly in becoming president of VCU. 'It's a pretty open secret,' said Leighty, who directs the Government Performance Initiative at VCU and teaches a class there in public administration."

* "[Friday] night, appearing with Senate candidate Mark R. Warner at Democratic fundraiser in Richmond, Kaine was asked whether he would succeed Trani as VCU's president. 'Who knows?' Kaine said. 'I've got a lot of challenging decisions ahead of me in the near-term,' he said, referring to the state's budget picture. Asked if he is interested in the position, Kaine said, 'That's too early to say.'"

"Too early to say" is far from a denial and the overall tone of the piece certainly makes it sound as though the VCU opening, which would come just six months after before Kaine is term limited out of office in January 2009 2010, is definitely being considered by the governor.

Due to the unique -- and, frankly, ridiculous -- single term limit in Virginia, if Kaine is not Obama's pick he will be in the strange position of needing to relatively quickly make decisions about his political future.

A U.S. Senate seat is, for the moment, out of the question with Sen. Jim Webb (D) not up for re-election in 2012 and Warner (D) expected to claim the open seat of retiring Sen. John Warner (R) this fall.

But, neither Webb nor Warner are likely to be lifers in the world's greatest deliberative body -- and have said as much themselves publicly. Warner seems all but certain to run for president down the line and Webb is the ultimate political outsider who is likely to chafe at the decorum required by the Senate.

Neither man will make a move for a few years and so Kaine will need to find a place to bide his time until another opportunity presents itself. VCU, based in Richmond where Kaine began his political career, could well be that perch.

By Chris Cillizza  |  August 18, 2008; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Fix Picks , Governors  
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Comments

I don't think our one-term limit is "silly." That's one of the advantages of the Commonwealth of Virginia, NO CAREER GOVERNORS!

Posted by: Matt | August 21, 2008 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Boycott CNN!

Posted by: holywoodog | August 20, 2008 11:07 PM | Report abuse

As I said before, some VA Dems would not be happy with TK as BO's VP choice because a Repub Lt Gov would complete the remaining year of TK's term not only have an advantage over the '09 Dem candidate, he would work with the reactionary Repub legislature to undo much of the good work that TK & M Warner have done.

Posted by: Bernie from VA | August 19, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I can tell you that if Kaine's not the Veep nominee he's actually going to be put up for William and Mary's President after his term expires. That's a bit more prestigious than VCU, though not the most pleasant situation to walk into. (Though the conservative's choice is Bob Gates, and I think TK is a bit more likely than Gates to come to WM.)

Posted by: jesyke | August 18, 2008 7:54 PM | Report abuse

"Scrivener, did you make any effort to find out what Obama is saying at his campaign events? Or did you just assume that he's not talking about the economy, because that supports your ludicrous "backroom deal" theory?"

Dude, what do you think? This fellow wants nothing more than attention.

Posted by: DDAWD | August 18, 2008 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Scrivener, did you make any effort to find out what Obama is saying at his campaign events? Or did you just assume that he's not talking about the economy, because that supports your ludicrous "backroom deal" theory?

Slate has a tool that shows candidate appearances, at www.mapthecandidates.com. Looking at Obama's appearances between July 18 and August 18, I see:
- An "Economic Security Town Hall" meeting in Florida, and 2 in Missouri
- A stop accompanied by an article about Obama trying to show concern for small-town Missouri issues
- Energy events in Michigan and Nevada
- A meeting with economic advisers
- Various town hall meetings which seem to focus primarily on energy and economic issues, judging from prepared remarks

So, once again, you're wrong. I look forward to your apology.

Posted by: Blarg | August 18, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

mnteng:

But Obama should be pounding away at this in personal appearances, factory town tours, maybe let Springsteen show him the shuttered textile mill in his central Jersey hometown, etc.

Ads alone don't drive it home. And his taking a week off just before the convention spelled lost opportunity. Barack is coasting to the convention; reminds me of his flagging performance in the final primaries, the ones where Hillary cleaned his clock.

As for Thomas: Obama raising the experience issue, in particular, is a bad case of the pot calling the kettle black. (Somehow that old chestnut doesn't seem politically correct in this context; but back in the day, all pots and kettles were made out of iron.)

Obama's AWOL campaign makes me think there is a backdoor deal. Lots of signs point that way.

Check out Krugman's column for an economist's educated view...

Posted by: scrivener | August 18, 2008 5:29 PM | Report abuse

"The irony is that he has vigorously opposed affirmative action both as Chairman of the EEOC under Reagan and as a SC Justice, but he was nominated GHWB wanted to fill Thurgood Marshall's seat because he is a black man -- the ultimate in affirmative action."

I cannot believe that Thomas was the best black candidate available for the job. Remember, this is a political appointment as much as anything else.

Posted by: DDAWD | August 18, 2008 5:28 PM | Report abuse

"That's why he ran for senate where he will happily be a lifer."

Its his own words that he doesn't plan on being a lifer.

Posted by: DDAWD | August 18, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

"Due to the unique -- and, frankly, ridiculous -- single term limit in Virginia..."

A constitutional amendment was proposed when Mark Warner was Governor to allow Virginia Governors to run for a second consecutive term. But GOP operatives intentionally told people that it would allow Warner to have a second term; even though Warner would have been specifically excluded from doing that.

The Fear Mongers lied, a lot of people people believed them and we're still stuck with an archaic term limit.

Posted by: Thanks GOP | August 18, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

scrivener:

BHO is correct that Thomas is the least qualified of any of the SC Justices. Even the American Bar Association only gave him a split "qualified" rating (with two votes for "not qualified"), while all the other sitting Justices received unanimous "well-qualified" ratings.

The irony is that he has vigorously opposed affirmative action both as Chairman of the EEOC under Reagan and as a SC Justice, but he was nominated GHWB wanted to fill Thurgood Marshall's seat because he is a black man -- the ultimate in affirmative action.

Whether or not you agree with Thomas' interpretation of the Constitution, he certainly was/is not one of the best legal minds in our country, unlike the other 8.

In regards to the economy, I don't know where you live, but here in PA we're getting a number of TV ads about the economy and alternative energy from BHO and McC (and T. Boone Pickens).

Posted by: mnteng | August 18, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

The general point that Kaine, if not chosen by Obama, will have to make career decisions quickly is true. But his stock is falling, and this piece is evidence of it. Here is a guy who was atop the VP list a couple weeks ago, and now he might be settling for president of VCU?!

I see Kaine having a random string of jobs after the governorship, sitting on commissions, maybe a cabinet post somewhere in there. He won't be elected statewide ever again; I'd be surprised if he ran.

Also, Mark Warner "all but certain" to run for president?! No. It's no secret that his wife put the kibosh on that. That's why he ran for senate where he will happily be a lifer.

Posted by: Mitch22 | August 18, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Chris:

It won't be Kaine. Two inexperienced candidates won't sell. Of course, neither did Obama criticizing Justice Thomas' appointment due to lack of experience...

The stock market, along with the credit and martgage markets, all tanked today.

And Obama's lead has evaporated in the battleground states While the Gallup shows him with a 3-pt. lead, that could be a lagging indicator. The impact of his week off, and the Faith Forum, should be known by Wednesday or Thursday.

The economy barely gets mentioned here. The NYT's Paul Krugman, a longtime Hillarian, is blasting Obama for not hammering home what's happening in the markets and in the bank accounts of average Americans.

It's all adding up to a poor performance by Obama leading up to the convention, and another argument that the Hillary forces are sure to proffer to the superdelegates.

I'd be interested in your take on the economy and how the candidates are addressing the issue (or not).

Posted by: scrivener | August 18, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

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