Is rumored Obama-Kaine event in Virginia on Thursday related to VP selection?

Column by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

Let’s put two and two together and see what we get, shall we?

Politico is reporting that Barack Obama is likely to announce his vice-presidential running mate this week, and notes that Obama is scheduled to be in New Mexico today with VP contender Bill Richardson and on Wednesday in Virginia with former governor Mark Warner.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, is reporting that Obama is also scheduled to be in Virginia on Thursday, though details of what Obama will be doing on Thursday in the Commonwealth are not known, including whether or not Tim Kaine will be a part of that day’s events. An item on the Post’s Virginia Politics blog quotes Kaine as being about as noncommital as one can be: “Schedules are in flux. Only the Martinsville event has been announced, but Wednesday I am really tied up wall-to-wall with this Cabinet Community Day.”

Kaine offered those comments to a Post reporter after rallying Obama supporters at an event at the Obama Richmond campaign headquarters. Before he left the HQ that day, the Post blog reported, he spent 20 minutes huddled in a back room, where he said he was “filming a little thing” for the Obama campaign.

Which brings us to what we can add to the rumor mill. A source talking to me on condition of anonymity told me over the weekend that the Obama event in Virginia on Thursday does include Tim Kaine. I was told that the Obama-Kaine event will take place in Lynchburg, but I wasn’t told anything about the nature of the event, as in, will it be the time and place where Obama names his running mate.

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For what it’s worth, I talked with two of my friends in the political-scientist set to get their thoughts on a Kaine candidacy, and neither thinks that Kaine will end up getting the tap on the shoulder from Obama.

“I don’t think he’s on the short list. I think everything became pretty clear when Mark Warner’s spot on the convention schedule was announced,” Christopher Newport University political-science professor Quentin Kidd told me, noting the selection of Warner to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 26. The convention focus the next night, on Aug. 27, will be on the vice-presidential nominee, and if it were Kaine, that would put the spotlight on Virginia pols on back-to-back nights. “Virginia is important. It’s obvious that Virginia is going to play a pretty important role this fall. And the Republicans have now admitted that – that Virginia is no longer a safe Republican state. But I don’t know that Virginia is so important that you could give two Virginians prominent spots on the convention schedule,” Kidd said.

Another factor in this could be the matter that has Kaine’s attention today in Richmond – the news that the state is now projecting a billion-dollar shortfall in the current biennial budget. “A lot of states have budget problems this year, and Virginia’s is far from the worst. But that being said, this certainly doesn’t help,” George Mason University politics expert Steve Farnsworth told me. “One of the major Democratic lines of attack on the Bush years is probably going to be the fiscal irresponsibility – the waging of war on a credit card, the huge ballooning of the deficit. And so the vice-presidential candidate for the Democrats needs to be somebody who has been able to balance budgets and isn’t looking at a fiscal crisis during an election season.”

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We’re all, of course, just reading tea leaves here. I think Kaine is still on the short list, along with Richardson in New Mexico, Evan Bayh in Indiana and Joe Biden in Delaware. My idea of the top two from among that list is Kaine and Bayh, not necessarily in that order, based on the role that their two states will play in the Electoral College math that we’re all working through.

Putting two and two together, in other words, and trying to get at the right answer.


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