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Fallout from Kaine-for-VP talk

Analysis by Chris Graham

Tim Kaine is vice president, and Scott Sayre is your 24th District state senator.

Think I’m reaching there? Let me take you where I am with this far-reaching scenario that’s been running through my head the past couple of days. Thinking things through, with Kaine as VP, Bill Bolling becomes governor, and as University of Virginia political-science professor Larry Sabato offered in a Crystal Ball column this week, and Christopher Newport University professor Quentin Kidd seconded in a conversation with me on Wednesday, Bolling ends up being the ’09 Republican Party gubernatorial nominee as part of the gentleman’s agreement that Bolling and Attorney General Bob McDonnell entered into earlier this year.

“And that would turn everything upside down in the Republican caucus,” Kidd told me, and I think he’s dead-on. “One would have to wonder, Well, what does Bob McDonnell do? Does he stick to that gentleman’s agreement? And OK, what about the lieutenant governor’s race on the Republican side? Is 15 months enough for Bill Bolling to establish as a quote-unquote credible incumbent?”

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Whatever happens in November 2009, we have Bolling running for governor, and McDonnell back to running for re-election as AG. That pushes Northern Virginia State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli out of the running for the GOP attorney-general nomination, one, and two, leaves wide open the party’s lieutenant-governor nomination. And as I reported earlier this year, 24th District GOP Sen. Emmett Hanger had been ramping up efforts to run for the LG nomination before Bolling and McDonnell had come to their agreement that currently has McDonnell in place as the presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee.

So let’s assume that Hanger gets back in the race, though he’s not suggesting that right now, at least not when I talked with him yesterday – but assuming that he gets back in that game, and I would be willing to bet the ranch on it, if I were to own a ranch, that could open up the 24th District Senate seat for Sayre, who came within a whisker of beating Hanger in a 2007 primary in the 24th. All Sayre would have to do is win a special election in the 24th, which I would expect would be a month-long campaign at best that would be less than likely to get attention from the Democratic Party of Virginia given the demographics of the district.

Speaking of the Democratic Party of Virginia, Kidd and University of Mary Washington professor Stephen Farnsworth have differing opinions about the impact on those on that side of the political aisle. Kidd doesn’t think the Kaine-to-Washington scenario has “any bearing on the Democratic side.” “In fact, I would imagine that Tim Kaine would not totally walk away from Virginia. I would imagine that he would come back to the extent to which it was possible for him to come back and appropriate and campaign for whoever the Democratic nominee would be,” Kidd said.

Farnsworth sees the maneuvering causing “a great complication for Democrats in Virginia politics.” “It would mean the last year of Kaine’s four-year term would be a year with a Republican governor. It would mean a great deal of gridlock, not unlike the gridlock that we see now in Virginia. Democrats would still control the Senate, and they would be able to block whatever the governor would want to do in that one year leading up to the election,” Farnsworth said.

“And it would make it more difficult, it seems to me, for the Democrats to win the governor’s race in 2009 if the Republican nominee is the former lieutenant governor, now governor, in that last year of the term,” Farnsworth said. “The whole reason that Virginia doesn’t allow governors to run for re-election is because of the theory that incumbent governors would have a great advantage. So this would be highly unusual.”

Sabato as well in his column said that he thinks Democrats would have a tough time winning the governor’s race in ’09, and I’m hearing similar things from friends in Democratic Party officialdom. Me personally, I’m more in line with Kidd in thinking that the issues are more on the Republican side, if only because the GOP ends up running its second-best candidate for governor in Bolling and its second-best candidate for LG in Hanger or someone else, whereas the Dems get pretty much what they have now from among Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran for governor, Jon Bowerbank and Jody Wagner for lieutenant governor and Steve Shannon for attorney general. And I would think that the team that the Democrats would field in ’09 would benefit greatly from having Vice President Tim Kaine campaigning on their behalf on the heels of having won the state’s electoral votes in ’08.

But as I said above, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Though I seriously doubt that I’m the only one who has thought this far out.

Right, Scott?

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