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Kaine on election, transition, personal future

A morning-after press conference by Gov. Tim Kaine that was billed to be a discussion on transition plans was dominated by postmortem election analysis, as Kaine sought to explain the shellacking Democrats took Tuesday while attempting to shield the president from blame.

Asked whether Obama was a factor, Kaine said Obama was not on the minds of voters, but wondered why the president's popularity hadn't been more of a help. ... Huh?

Here it is in his own words:

"Voters said the races were decided on local issues, that the president was not really a factor in the overwhelming majority of voters' choices," said Kaine, citing exit poll data.

But...

"With 55 percent of independents nationally saying they approve of the job President Obama is doing, the fact that independent voters in Virginia in the race yesterday supported governor-elect McDonnell by a strong margin is something that we have to assess, and I don't really have an answer for that right now."

Kaine offered some explanations for R. Creigh Deeds's loss, saying Deeds was an underdog from the start. He said McDonnell's tenure in the attorney general's office for four years helped him with name recognition and with raising money.

"When Creigh won the surprise primary in June, it was a great win, but I don't think that there was much doubt that Creigh was considered the underdog because he was having to refill his coffers beginning in late June and he was running against a guy that beat him four years ago," Kaine said.

He went on to note the apparent consistent reaction Virginians have against the party in the White House.

"Also, historically, Virginia and Virginia voters have this quirk...the party that has the White House loses the Virginia governorship."

Kaine was also asked whether the inability to deliver a win in his home state hurt his future as DNC chair, and whether it was wise to head a national party while having "a day job."

"I don't really think it's going to affect my service as DNC chair," Kaine said. "I've been on the phone with the White House ... talking about these races and talking about challenges and issues to come. ... There's been a long tradition of DNC and RNC chairs being elected officials...and its actually an honorable one."

Kaine spent relatively little time discussing the transition, but said it was important that the process go smoothly, especially given the recession. He also said he planned to make as many tough budget decisions as he could before leaving office in an effort to give the new governor "some breathing room."

"I had a very good conversation a few minutes ago with Bob," Kaine said. "He and I chatted about the transition, which is obviously always important and happens quickly, but at a time when the economy and...other issues that are tough, it may be a little more important than normal. It was a productive discussion and I offered my congratulations, but also my pledge that we'll make this transition as seamless as we can. That's one of the wonderful aspects of our democracy is peaceful transitions and cooperative transitions."

Thrown a curve ball about whether he planned to grant Beltway Sniper John Allen Muhammad clemency, Kaine dodged, for the time being. He said he was awaiting a briefing by advisers who have been looking into the issue.

Kaine also said that like many former governors, he supported allowing governors to serve two terms in Virginia. And asked whether he would ever run for elected office again, Kaine left the door open...just a crack.

"I don't feel the need to say never," he said. "But I have a feeling that my future will be definitely as a public servant, probably not a public servant whose name is on a bumper sticker. ...Who knows?"

-- Jonathan Mummolo

By Anne Bartlett  |  November 4, 2009; 1:22 PM ET
Categories:  Election 2009 , Timothy M. Kaine  
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