Why Kaine is your go-to guy

Special Commentary by Chris Graham

NBC News political director Chuck Todd broke it down for us last night on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.”

Assigning leaners in the Electoral College to the candidates that it appears that they will support, the 2008 presidential race comes down to four states – Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia – in which Barack Obama will need 10 electoral votes.

Colorado brings nine electoral votes, so a win there still has to be coupled with another win elsewhere. Ditto for New Mexico, which brings five electoral votes.

We’re down to two states, then, that can tip the scales to Obama – Ohio and its 20 electoral votes, and Virginia and its 13.

Ohio has been reliably red of late, and was in fact the key to George W. Bush’s re-election victory in 2004.

Virginia has been red since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, but Democrats have had their eyes on the Commonwealth since back in 2000, when Al Gore was able to win Hampton Roads, signaling a change in party affiliation that has since come to fruition with the election victories of Mark Warner, Tim Kaine and Jim Webb.

“They’re looking at ’04 as an anamoly,” Christopher Newport University political-science professor Quentin Kidd told me today.

Which explains, then, the 28 campaign offices that the Obama campaign has opened across the Commonwealth, including here in the reddest part of once-red Virginia, in Harrisonburg and Staunton, with a Waynesboro-office opening also possibly in the works for the coming weeks.

It took me this long to get to my point today. I’ve been saying for a couple of weeks that I think Tim Kaine is Barack Obama’s choice to run for vice president. It’s not a gut instinct; I think it comes down to simple data analysis.

Obama needs Virginia, and Kaine, whose favorability ratings in Virginia approach those of the uberpopular Mark Warner, could help push the Obama effort over the top.

Obama is already leading Virginia in three of the four polls done by national polling organizations, albeit by a small one- to two-point margin. A Kaine presence on the ticket could add a bounce of another point or two or three, which in a race that is this razorclose could be significant.

And as I say this, I have been beginning to wonder in recent days what would happen in Virginia were Kaine not to get the nod. I’m asking that rhetorical question in light of the rampant discussion of Kaine’s presence on Obama’s VP short list that seems to have had an energizing effect among Democrats and independents who are among Kaine’s biggest supporters in the Old Dominion.

I wouldn’t want to overstate the case, but it seems to me that there could be a Kaineless negative bounce of a point or two or three or more just the same as there could be a positive bounce in the other direction.

Given the stakes of the race in Virginia and the deciding role that we seem to be playing in this year’s election, I think what is about to happen is clear.

The Obama people didn’t target Virginia and Tim Kaine for nothing.

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