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Tim Kaine and the Future of Obama For America

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine will be the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee. (Photo by Linda Davidson of the Washington Post)

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine's installation at the head of the Democratic National Committee sends a strong signal that President-elect Barack Obama will seek to keep the massive grassroots organization built during his national campaign almost entirely under his control as he moves into the White House.

Kaine is considered one of Obama's closest friends among elected officials and is seen as a major figure within the party -- as evidenced by the fact that he was one of the three finalists in the vice presidential search.

Initially reluctant, Kaine was heavily courted by Obama in the final weeks of 2008; the president-elect along with his senior White House political team and campaign manager David Plouffe dined with Kaine in Washington in mid December and then Kaine flew out to Chicago right before Obama left for Hawaii to meet with the president-elect.

Kaine's appointment -- coupled with the installation of Jen O'Malley Dillon, who ran the battleground states for Obama in the general election, as executive director of the DNC -- is cast by Obama insiders as a clear sign that the massive email list and grassroots capacity (three million donors, 10 million supporters) built under the Obama for America umbrella will stay under the control of those who built it.

The question of who controls the Obama campaign structure and how has been a hot point of debate among Democrats online and offline since the president-elect's sweeping victory in November. Obama, himself, has sent messages -- via Plouffe -- to his email list asking supporters what the next step should be in the transformation of the Obama organization.

Some have cited the transition of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's political organization built during the 2004 presidential campaign -- Dean for America -- into an independent outside group, Democracy for America, as a blueprint for Obama's political machine.

But, for a campaign that went to great measures to ensure its people ran all of the key messaging elements of the party -- even urging its donors not to fund any independent organizations -- it was always more likely that the Obama team would seek to keep its political operation in house.

What does Obama's decision to empower the DNC mean for the myriad outside groups vying to become the main advocates for the new president's agenda?

It's clearly not good news but those closest to Obama caution that much remains to be worked out. Jim Messina, deputy chief of staff to the president-elect, has spent the last few weeks meeting with labor organizations as well as the heads of non-profit 501(c)(4) groups in hopes of streamlining the message delivery system for Obama.

No firm decisions have been made about whether a new group should be formed to help coordinate with the DNC or whether an existing entity -- like Americans United, which Messina had a hand in starting five years ago -- can be utilized to drive Obama's message.

What is clear, however, is that the DNC will be the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to pushing Obama's message -- a development that directly contrasts the role the national committee played over the last four years when much of the message-creation came from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 5, 2009; 10:56 AM ET
Categories:  Democratic Party , White House  
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Next: MN-Senate: Franken Claims Victory


As a South American Jew, I am flabbergasted by this quaint American creature called the Roman Catholic. Apparently, in American Roman Catholicism it is expected to be anti-gay, sexist, anti-abortion, yet pro-war, pro-death penalty, and favor a maximum punishment based criminal justice system as opposed to one based on proportion, redemption and forgiveness [You can't live here and know NOTHING of Catholicism!]. And this somehow HELPS with Latinos in America?

Does Obama not realize what message that sends to his biggest campaign contributors, Jewish people, gay people, and gay Jewish people?

I am very, very curious to hear this supposed "Spanish" that Tim Kaine speaks. I really am. Chris Dodd, Bob Menendez Bill Richardson and now Hilda Solis are the only big-time Democratic Spanish-speakers I'm aware of.

I don't really know any Jews who disagree with the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. We only part company on his super-natural powers. Most Jews I know LOATHE the kind of views expressed by Tim Kaine.

Posted by: DexterClinkscale | January 8, 2009 4:34 AM | Report abuse

I was struck by the picture at the head of this article. I first thought, "Tim Kaine looks more like my old high school auto shop teacher (Mr. Astrada) than a politician"...and then quickly realized, "That's a good thing!" Instead of coming across as a well-coiffed, egotistical "in it for ME" sort of politician (a la Blago), Gov Kaine is like Mr. Astrada; an affable but no nonsense guy who connects well with his charges, sets high standards and gets results. This is the way Tim Kaine has governed Virginia and this is surely the way he will run the DNC. The Dems will be in good stead with him at the wheel.

Posted by: Ex-NavyPilot | January 6, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Tim will bring a new vision and strategy to the Obama 2012 election campaign that will counteract the negatives from the great economic depression of the next few years.

Posted by: leapin | January 6, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Nepotism....what's that? Friends taking on big responsibilities.......never.....this is the way it is and will continue to be folks...

Grant M. Waldman

Posted by: grantwestcoast | January 5, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Great Choice!!! Hopefully Kaine will be around in case OBAMA decides to get rid of Biden for the 2012 run. He can be OBAMA'S vice presidential choice in 2012.

Posted by: mattadamsdietmanager1014 | January 5, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Its a pity Mr. Dean is being tossed to the curb, but not surprising, his developing, articulating, and driving his "50 state plan" has been instrumental in rebuilding the democratic party that has been in shambles for the last 18 years

Posted by: chet_brewer | January 5, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Dept. of Justice confirms:


A nexus between "radiation weapons" and domestic torture?

Victims of state-sponsored "community stalking" say YES.

Will the Civil Rights Division of D.O.J. now investigate?

Trying to effort an FBI response from Asst. Director John Miller.


Posted by: scrivener50 | January 5, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Anyone is better than Primal Screaming Dean.
DNC is mad at President Elect Obama for "dissing" them --when he decided not to take their campaign money.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | January 5, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

We, the three-million followers of Mr. Obama welcome this news. And we await further orders from Him.

Posted by: bobnsri | January 5, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

"Dem's need to get in line behind the winner with the new ideas that flout those failed past ideas and policies of the losing whiners..."

Pity then that 0bama's running the same old ideas that failed under Carter using the same clowns that played "excuse the perjury" during the Clinton administration.

Posted by: NeverLeft | January 5, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

ahashburn wrote: "Hmmm, the reward for running your state into debt by the hundreds of millions of dollars is leadership of the DNC? Interesting."

Jim Gilmore's going to head up the DNC? Wow. He's really taking his stunning defeat to heart by turning away from the dark side. :-|

Posted by: TomCadorette | January 5, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm, the reward for running your state into debt by the hundreds of millions of dollars is leadership of the DNC? Interesting.

Posted by: ahashburn | January 5, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Since outside groups, as well as Pelosi and Reid have proven to be idiotic, un-pragmatic, weak, loser, and often incompetent whiners with titles... I think its PERFECT that Obama will control the messages, agenda, and mailing lists!

Dem's need to get in line behind the winner with the new ideas that flout those failed past ideas and policies of the losing whiners: Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Gloria Steinem, N.O.W., Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, PUMA, et. al

Its a new party with a leader who knows how to win by REJECTING out if hand the rediculous policy notions of the wing-nut left AND the wing-nut right. Celibrate it!

Posted by: onestring | January 5, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

hdc77494 writes
"So Obama wants complete control of the Democrat's message and party apparatus, and asks his donors not to fund anyone else... Sounds a little arrogant to me, and very autocratic, all ideas must emanate from the top."

Check the dateline on that bit of news, from May 13, 2008. He was asking that, during the election, contributors not fund organizations like If I'm not mistaken, Sen McCain likewise asked that 529s not interject themselves into the Presidential election.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 5, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Come see Gov. Howard Dean at the 6th Annual DemocracyFest; July 17th-19th in Burlington, VT!

Posted by: Deaniac1 | January 5, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

So Obama wants complete control of the Democrat's message and party apparatus, and asks his donors not to fund anyone else.

Sounds a little arrogant to me, and very autocratic, all ideas must emanate from the top.

Posted by: hdc77494 | January 5, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Born Again Bigot Idiot War Criminals are losing badly. LMAO

Posted by: MoronCons | January 5, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Interesting article on the Coleman/Franken race today. Though I thought this was a little odd:

Says Cilliza:

"'The Coleman team has laid the groundwork for a real, substantive challenge in front of the Minnesota Supreme Court,' said Vin Weber, a former member of Congress from Minnesota and now a lobbyist in Washington. 'The race is still a ways from being over.'"

Wow, sounds like things are still up in the air! Strange, though, that pretty much every knowledgeable commentator is saying the race is essentially over. I wonder who this Vin Webber character is, who is quoted without any characterization?

From wikipedia: "Weber is a former Republican Congressman from Minnesota".

Oh...well, I guess Chris just kind of overlooked that part.

Wait there's more: "Weber served as the Bush-Cheney '04 Plains States Regional Chairman."

Oh, so Weber's your typical right-wing aparachick/hack. That would have been nice to know.

Way to inform your readers there, Chris! (If this was left on the cutting-room floor by the editors, I apologize. Let them know they're embarassing the Post).

Posted by: icoleman | January 5, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Another, really - really bad day for the DEMOCRUDS

Posted by: hclark1 | January 5, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Besides being Governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine was born in Minnesota (2010 gubernatorial race with a GOP incumbent), raised in Missouri (2010 senatorial race with GOP incumbent) and went to school in Massachusetts (2010 gubernatorial and senatorial elections). Also, he is practising Roman Catholic and bilingual in English and Spanish which helps in California, Colorado, Florida and Nevada (2010 gubernatorial and senatorial elections).

Posted by: Corey_NY | January 5, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

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