Friday, May 16, 2008

The case for Tim Kaine

Today The Shad Plank took on the question of Obama's likely choices for a Vice Presidential running mate. The Shad Plank confidently predicts that Obama will choose a southern white male as a running mate in order to balance the ticket. I don't think Obama's calculations will be quite so blatantly racial, but Obama does have a few choices available, which The Shad Plank is kind enough to name: Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, and Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia.

The Shad Plank dismisses Webb out of hand for being "too pugnacious." I disagree with that "analysis." Webb would make a fine Vice President, were he so inclined, but I am not convinced that he is so inclined. Lowell Feld claims to have seen that particular gleam in Senator Webb's eye, and if Webb is selected I know he'll do well, but I haven't seen any indication from Webb that he is interested. What I have seen from Webb is a real dedication and relish for his work in the U.S. Senate. Webb is a military and foreign policy wonk, and he is clearly loving the role he is able to play as an advocate for the ordinary men and women who serve in our military. I just don't think Webb is interested in the Veep slot.

John Edwards, who The Shad Plank seems to think would be the Democrats' true "dream ticket," has also indicated that he is not interested in the Veep slot. Although Edwards could reverse himself, I take him at his word when he says he is not interested in running for the Veep slot again. It's an open question as to whether Edwards could actually swing North Carolina for Obama. Edwards is several years out of office and doesn't have as strong a home state constituency as one might think. Thats why I think it's a mistake to count Kaine out.

It's important to remember what the role of the running mate is: deliver your own state, provide some geographic balance to the ticket, campaign enthusiastically, serve as the ticket's attack when necessary, and don't upstage the presidential candidate. Kaine fits the bill well in all respects.

Tim Kaine is a fantastic campaigner who is comfortable either putting out his campaign's positive message or going on the attack against the other side (as Jerry Kilgore discovered to his chagrin). Kaine relishes a good campaign road trip. He balances the ticket geographically.

Kaine also has some other unique qualities and skills that would help him reach out to key constituencies Obama needs help with. With his background as a missionary in South America and fluency in Spanish, Kaine would be uniquely effective among Latino and Catholic voters. Kaine can also reach out to Appalachian voters, many of whom are Virginians and already Kaine's constituents.

Finally, while it's an open question as to whether Edwards could actually swing North Carolina for Obama, an Obama-Kaine ticket with Mark Warner down ballot would almost certainly capture Virginia for the Democrats.

I don't really accept the premise that Obama needs to pick a southern white male to balance his ticket, but I do think that Tim Kaine would be a fantastic asset to the Obama campaign.

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