Friday, July 11, 2008

Why Barack Obama will pick Tim Kaine for Vice President

Back on May 16, 2008, I speculated that Barack Obama might choose Virginia Governor Tim Kaine for his running mate. Today I am more convinced than ever that Kaine will be Obama's choice. Here's why:
  1. He can deliver his own state. This may be the single greatest qualification for a vice president. Most of the other Democrats on Obama's short list are from safe Democratic states. Post-Mark Warner-Jim Webb Virginia is a toss up, so says Larry Sabato. Tim Kaine can tip the balance and deliver the Commonwealth of Virginia for Obama.
  2. Kaine provides geographic balance: he's a Southerner (by marriage) and nicely balances Obama's Midwest appeal.
  3. Kaine is a skilled, high-energy campaigner who is effective at delivering a positive message or, should it be necessary, delivering stunning counter-attacks. Kaine's positive-yet-pugnacious stump presence would provide Obama with some much-needed teeth as Obama takes on the Republican attack machine.
  4. Kaine has been vetted. Tim Kaine was the target of an incredibly nasty Republican smear campaign during his run for the Governor of Virginia in 2005. Kaine emerged almost completely untouched and crushed his Republican opponent. If the Republicans had anything on Kaine, they would have played that card in 2005.
  5. Kaine is largely unknown outside of Virginia. You might think that would be a down side, but you are thinking conventionally: think unconventionally. One of the reasons the Republicans are having such a hard time with Obama is that they have nothing to attack him with. Kaine's relatively low profile (along with #4) will make it difficult for Republicans to play their smear game.
  6. Kaine can speak to Latino voters in Spanish, fluently.
  7. Kaine can speak to a broad slice of the religious community as a practicing Catholic and former missionary. Obama has made no secret of his desire to reach out to religious voters: Kaine fits the profile.
  8. Kaine is young. Kaine will only be 58 or 59 (I forget which) in 2016. If Obama is a reasonably successful president, Kaine can step into his shoes much in the same way he followed Mark Warner into the Virginia Governor's mansion. Kaine has the skills and is the right age to help to deliver 16 years of Democratic leadership in the White House.

As I've said before elsewhere, the down side to a Kaine candidacy is not as big as it is made out to be. An Obama-Kaine win would hand the Virginia Governor's mansion back to the Republicans, but only for a few months. If elected Vice President, Kaine would take office on January 20, 2008. At that point, the wrong Republican--Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling--would take office. But Bolling would be the lamest of lame ducks. He'd only have a few months in office, no time to enact any kind of meaningful agenda. He'd be blocked in the first half of the year by the Democratic majority in the state senate, then he'd be upstaged in the Summer and Fall by the Republicans' presumptive gubernatorial, Attorney General Bob McDonnell.

Then, in the Summer and Fall, the Democratic nominee for governor in 2009, Deeds or Moran, would have an incredible campaign support team to call on. The Democratic nominee would appear all over Virginia backed up by President Obama, Vice President Kaine, and Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner. That's campaign "oomph!" my friends, the likes of which Virginia has not seen in many years. Bob McDonnell would not be able to even come close to matching it.

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