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Posted at 6:50 AM ET, 02/11/2011

What will Tim Kaine do?

By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake

Forty-eight hours after Virginia Sen. Jim Webb (D) announced he would not seek a second term, the political world waits on Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine .

Kaine, who spent four years as governor of the Commonwealth from 2005 to 2009, has to date been publicly dismissive of the possibility.

"I've got a job I really like right now -- tough though it may be -- and I'm doing what the president wants me to do," Kaine told NBC's Andrea Mitchell last month in an interview. "I think having been governor of Virginia, it's hard to top that."

While Kaine allies note that his comments to Mitchell were necessary given that Webb had yet to decide whether or not he would run again in 2012, they also acknowledge that, privately, he had made clear he wasn't interested in the contest.

With Webb now officially out, however, there are those within the party who describe Kaine as somewhat less definitive about not running -- although still disinclined to do so.

In conversations with a number of Virginia Democratic operatives, there was considerable disagreement about Kaine's actual state of mind -- whether he was politely entertaining the idea as a courtesy to his supporters or genuinely leaving the door ajar.

Kaine will almost certainly make a quick decision either way, according to one informed party source who noted that the state party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner is set for next Saturday. That gathering, the source noted, would be overshadowed by the will-he-or-won't-he chatter if Kaine has not decided in a week's time.

If he does run, a victory is far from certain, however. Kaine is one of President Obama's closest allies and, as chairman of the party's national convention, has been a reliable backer of the major policy initiatives put forward by the President. Senate Republicans are already building out an opposition research file on Kaine that was begun two years ago by the Republican National Committee.

If Kaine sticks with his past comments and stays out, the party establishment is likely to turn to former Rep. Tom Perriello who won a Republican-leaning Southside Virginia seat in 2008 but was unable to hold it in 2010 -- despite putting up a real fight.

Perriello's base in a GOP-tilting area, coupled with his fundraising ability, close relationship with the White House and an expectation that he would be well received in the electorally critical northern Virginia suburbs is an intriguing combination of attributes in the eyes of party strategists.

On the Republican side, former Sen. George Allen is the frontrunner and, if he is the nominee, would likely start a general election as a slight favorite over Kaine, Perriello or any other person Democrats put forward. (Former Rep. Rick Boucher has also been mentioned.)

But, Allen getting through what seems certain to be a primary challenge from his ideological right is no sure thing, and his 2006 campaign suggests a lack of message discipline that could come back to bite the former senator again in 2012.

Reactions from CPAC Day One: We are officially one-third of the way through the first major presidential cattle call of the 2012 presidential race. And Thursday's festivities at the Marriott Wardman Park did not disappoint.

A few takeaways from the potential presidential candidates:

* Trump has an ego: From the moment he walked in the door, The Donald oozed confidence. When he took the stage, he was only so happy to list his many accomplishments. He also mixed it up with a room that was about one-quarter full of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) supporters, telling them that their hero isn't electable.

Trump said he would announce his intentions about running for president by June. This man doesn't know what humility is, and he loves publicity of any kind, so don't be surprised if he goes for it. Of course, when someone likes attention this much, they might just be milking it.

* Santorum didn't draw: Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) suffered by being the first speaker after the lunch break, but attendees didn't seem to be clamoring to return to the ballroom for his 2 p.m. speech, either. What resulted was Santorum delivering a quality speech on foreign policy and American Exceptionalism to a half-empty room.

Santorum needs to start exciting conservatives again in order to win. Thursday wasn't a good sign.

* Gingrich can be good when he wants to: The former House speaker delivered some very effective lines in between talking about German trade policy and flexfuel vehicles in Brazil, calling for the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency and scoffing at the notion that President Obama is similar to Ronald Reagan.

The speech was more proof that Gingrich can slay them when he's on-point. When he starts sounding like a professor with too many degrees is when people will start to look for something more palatable.

Daniels's drug arrest: Did you know that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) was arrested and jailed in a drug sting?

On the eve of his big speech to the CPAC crowd Friday night, Politico's Ben Smith digs up an old article from Daniels's college newspaper, the Princetonian, which disclosed that Daniels had been a subject of a five-month drug sting.

He was arrested and initially charged with possession of marijuana, LSD, and illegal possession of prescription drugs. He was never charged with selling drugs.

It's not the first time the issue has been raised (it's been a part of his past campaigns), but it's likely to be fodder for his opponents if he runs for president.

Fixbits:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has hired a top aide to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Terry Sullivan, as his new deputy chief of staff. Sullivan ran former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in South Carolina in 2008.

Meet Sen. Olympia Snowe's (R-Maine) primary challenger, Scott D'Amboise.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will introduce Vice President Biden at a speech at the University of Louisiville.

New American Conservative Union President Al Cardenas suggested CPAC and the gay Republican group GOProud may part ways after the group's chairman called ACU Foundation Chairwoman Cleta Mitchell a "nasty bigot." GOProud's chairman, Chris Barron, has apologized for using the phrase.

Must-reads:

"Meet the woman who took down Chris Lee" -- Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger, Washington Post

"Republicans Declare Unity on Spending Measure" -- Anna Palmer, Roll Call

"Health care could haunt Romney in 2012" -- David Lightman, McClatchy

"Kyl's exit could spark leadership scramble" - Manu Raju, Politico

"White House retreats from Social Security offer" - Laura Meckler, Wall Street Journal

By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake  | February 11, 2011; 6:50 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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