Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Waiting for Kaine

There is a growing sense of frustration on the Left side of Virginia's blogosphere over the question of who should get the Democratic nomination to replace retiring U.S. Senator Jim Webb. The fact that this sense of frustration is not justified and is mostly counter-productive goes a long way towards explaining the sharp decline in the influence of lefty blogs in Virginia.

Their grievance relates to the all-but-certain nomination of former-Governor and current DNC Chair Tim Kaine to take on the Republican challenger--most likely George F. Allen. It's not fair that Tim Kaine is the overwhelming favorite of the Democratic establishment in Virginia, they say. There should be a primary and anyone who wants to run should run and they should all get equal coverage from every newspaper or media outlet that covers the race. It's not fair that everyone who really has a say in the matter prefers Tim Kaine.

What this growing murmur of protest ignores is the simple reality that in terms of political stature Tim Kaine dwarfs anyone else in the running for this nomination, and everyone who really has a say about the matter knows that Tim Kaine has what amounts to a right of first refusal when it comes to this nomination. Kaine has far more political mojo in this state--and nationwide--than anyone else in the running. That's just reality.

The real question is whether Kaine wants the nomination. I speculated last week that Kaine might be holding out for some other nomination--like Vice President in 2012--or some other job--an ambassadorship, a cabinet post--that he wants more than a seat in the U.S. Senate.

There's also the question of what Barack Obama wants. What seems certain to me is that Barack Obama and Tim Kaine had a plan for 2012 that involved Jim Webb running for re-election to the U.S. Senate. When Jim Webb announced that he would not run for re-election, that plan was upset. What would Tim Kaine's role have been in 2012 if Jim Webb had agreed to run again? Would Kaine have been invited to join Obama at the top of the ticket? Would he soldier on at the DNC? Would he move into a cabinet post or ambassadorship? There was a plan and Kaine had a place in that plan, but we don't know what that role was or will be. What does Obama want Kaine to do? Continue with Obama's national political plan, or will Obama tell Kaine that he is needed to hold the Virginia senate seat?

Hopefully Tim Kaine will end the speculation this weekend and announce his interest in the nomination and his willingness to participate in a primary or convention, whatever the party decides. The Democratic Party of Virginia would then be likely to choose a convention because no one in their right minds would challenge Tim Kaine in a Democratic Primary once Kaine was endorsed by Barack Obama, Mark Warner, and practically every member of the DPVA's central committee.

People seeking to "draft" Tom Perriello or anyone else to run for this nomination aren't doing them any special favors. The overwhelming majority of central committee members seem to prefer Kaine. Mark Warner prefers Kaine. If Barack Obama then tells Kaine that his role in the Democratic Party's plan for 2012 is to hold Webb's Senate seat, then Kaine and practically everyone else connected with the DPVA is going to salute and carry out orders. Bloggers who try to stand in front of that bus are going to get run over. Whining about how "unfair" it all is won't alter the fundamental political realities underlying this situation.

Now it is entirely possible that Obama will tell Kaine that he is needed elsewhere, that Obama needs Kaine to fill the role of _______________ just as they originally planned in their strategy for 2012. If that's the case, then Kaine might make some sort of statement this weekend thanking everyone for their well wishes, but he won't be running for Webb's senate seat because he needs to spend more time with his family, with Obama, or with his harmonica.

If that's the case, then I believe that Tom Perriello becomes the favorite for the nomination. I think Tom Perriello is a fantastic guy and would make a fantastic candidate, especially if his supporters don't offend nearly every member of the central committee of the DPVA by attacking them for supporting Tim Kaine as their first choice. Supporters of Tom Perriello would do well to recognize that the DPVA--which has worried about disunity since 2009--is extremely unified in their preference for Tim Kaine. Attacking them for their support of Kaine at this point will only breed bad feelings that could come back to haunt Democrats down the road.

Which is precisely the point for some. There is a handful of people on the left who happen to be concentrated in the blogosphere who genuinely dislike Tim Kaine, some for policy reasons others for reasons that seem to be primarily personal in nature. The need to hold Webb's seat and deliver Virginia's electoral votes for Barack Obama in 2012 should trump those personal considerations.

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