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« O-Mentum | Main | Gregoire Opens a Big Lead »

February 22, 2008

Kaine and Strickland: The Paper Veeps

posted by Josh Goodman

Kaineofficialportraithires Chris Cillizza has a rundown of possible vice presidential candidates over at I disagree with him on one point: That Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine is a serious contender.

Kaine looks great on paper. He's been a fairly progressive governor in a fairly conservative state. Virginia is definitely in play -- most recent polls actually show Obama leading McCain in the Old Dominion, even though no Democratic presidential candidate has carried the state since 1964.

Kaine is also very smart, quick on his feet and an able spokesman. Cillizza rightly points out that his ability to speak openly and sincerely about his faith could be an asset.

The problem: While Kaine is well-liked in Virginia, he's popular in the same way beige is popular. Lots of stuff is beige, but when was the last time you heard someone describe it as his or her favorite color?

Kaine has only served a little more than two years as governor and lacks a signature achievement. His most noteworthy accomplishment was securing new transportation funding, although that effort was marred, to an extent, but the inclusion of the unpopular "abuser fees," which the legislature has since voted to repeal.

That might seem irrelevant to Kaine as a vice presidential candidate. After all, people in 49 states will only ever become acquainted with his record as governor in the most superficial way.

But a poll that involved another Democratic governor mentioned as a veep possibility, Ohio's Ted Strickland, explains why this matters. Strickland, like Obama, is the relatively popular, relatively new, Democratic governor of a key swing state.

The poll, from November, showed that in spite of Strickland's healthy approval rating, only 29% of Ohioans thought he has qualified to be vice president (49% said no) and only 13% said they would be more likely to vote Democratic based on his presence on the ticket.

Voters distinguish between people who they think are good governors and people who they think are ready to be vice president. Both Kaine and Strickland are viewed as the former, but probably not the latter.

And if Kaine can't help Obama win Virginia, what's the point of choosing him? His relative inexperience would inevitably raise eyebrows. So, without Virginia's 13 electoral votes, putting Kaine on the ticket would be all risk and no reward.

The story would be completely different if it were former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner under consideration. Warner is viewed favorably by close to 70% of Virginians, who remember him as the governor who fixed the state's budget problems. He has a national name from his (aborted) presidential bid. The problem, of course, is that Warner is running for Senate in 2008.

Previously in my vice presidential series: Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty


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