Tim Kaine for VP: Ideal choice or candidacy poison?

As the Commonwealth’s own governor makes Obama’s short list, here’s a look at the pros and cons of Kaine gunning for the number two spot.

Tim Kaine could be ideal choice for Obama, marking the first time a VP candidate brought with him his state in almost 50 years. However, he could prove to be a toxic companion that could poison the entire candidacy.

Kaine-Obama history

In the early 90s, Tim Kaine was the superstar of the Richmond City Council. Something like a Bill Pantele, only less cankerous. Since then, Kaine has risen from Mayor to Governor of the Commonwealth.

Kaine was one of the first to endorse Barack Obama for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Kaine and Obama stood lockstep at Plant Zero in May of 2007, promoting the little-known Senator from Illinois. Virtually every other high-ranking Democrat had already sided with Hillary Clinton. We all know how that strategy turned out for them.

It took a lot of courage for Kaine to back Obama, and he has been rewarded for it on a national level. Since then, Kaine has traveled with Obama to support the cause, even introducing him at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner back in February.

Obama’s Dilemma

So Obama is facing an interesting question. Should he select a running mate that has been with him from the start? Someone who not only has good judgment, but someone who he can rely on when things get tough? Or, should he select someone who can deliver things he cannot? Perhaps an issue like foreign policy via Joe Biden.

Running mate selections have been completely lackluster in recent years. Cheney? Gore? Quayle? Give me a break. There hasn’t been an interesting VP choice in 50 years.

Kaine’s Pros

Kaine is the poster boy for the new Democratic Party. Ala Jim Webb, he represents all the ideals of a Republican, but in a Democratic wrapping. He was a missionary to Honduras – an assault to the Republicans evangelical stranglehold. He married the daughter of a Republican governor (A. Linwood Holton). He epitomizes the Republican’s worst nightmare.

His image and history is squeaky clean. Like a squeegee. McCain’s cronies aren’t going to dig up a John Edwards baby momma-type scandal from the Kaine camp.

Oh, yeah, there are those 13 electoral votes he could turn from red to blue.

Kaine’s apex was delivering the 2006 Democratic response to President Bush’s State of the Union Address. Since then, things have been downhill.

The Cons

Kaine’s general VP faults are obvious. His relatively young age. The inexperience of a single-term Governor. The lack of foreign diplomacy/domestic/defense experience is clear.

However, Kaine’s lack of success as governor is particularly troubling. Kaine failed to make inroads with Republicans on the budget and transportation, which raises doubts about Kaine’s ability to build bi-partisan support on the federal level. The VP’s only “job” is to be president of the Senate, and ideally he should be building bridges, not burning them.

Ties with his own party are even worse – state Democrats didn’t even bother bringing his transportation bill up for vote – a far cry from support for the standing Governor. “Disaster” is the only word that can sum up Kaine’s attempts at transportation funding over the past few years.

Renowned political professor and analyst Larry Sabato rates Kaine’s performance in the bottom quartile of Virginia governors. Bringing on Kaine to shore up Obama’s lack of executive experience isn’t very effective when said governor hasn’t managed his state well.

The Decision

The Virginia connection seems like a no-brainer. Select a Virginia stalwart for Vice President – a pick-em of Mark Warner, Jim Webb, or Tim Kaine, and you’re virtually guaranteed Virginia in November.

But it’s not that simple. Webb and Warner have yanked their names from consideration. Kaine is left. And while he might seem like a great choice to Obama insiders, Virginians know more. Kaine appears to be an asset on the national level, but if selected, he could prove to be Obama’s biggest liability.

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Sam Fetchero

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