Betting Against Kaine: A Bad Bet


    By Paul Goldman

    More than most politicians, former Senator George Allen understands the luck dimension to politics. He had a sure win for re-election in 2006: the polls showing him almost unbeatable; the Democrats in Washington, if you go back and read the clips, ready to write off underdog Jim Webb. But then, as they say, “stuff happens,” and Allen lost the Senate race to someone who has now apparently gone from “born fighting””to “bored fighting” in record time based on Virginia history.

    Go figure.

    But unlikely events leading to open doors have been part of Tim Kaine’s history.

    When it comes to the luck dimension, Tim has a political guardian angel second to none, something that George Allen has not factored into the 2012 equation. For sure, the former Governor and current DNC Chairman might not decide to run. But, then again, the sun might not come out tomorrow either, the next Pope might not be Catholic, and the next Senator from Virginia might not be…I gotta leave some mystery right?

    Anyway, back to the Timster. George Allen may dismiss what follows as voodoo. He might be right. But does the label matter if it is true? What follows are the steps that have led Tim Kaine to the point where he can compete for an open Senate seat — vacant because for the first time in Virginia, a first time Senator who wasn’t a sure loser decided not to seek a second term.


    1. When Tim first ran for city council in Richmond, he was a big underdog. He lost his home precinct, which is usually the kiss of death in a local election. Several opponents complained that he won because several busloads of usual non-voters were mysteriously taken to the polls in a low-turnout election.  

    2. Tim got to be Mayor because the sure winner decided not to run.

    3. In 2001, Tim had no chance to be nominated as Lieutenant Governor. But the heavy favorite, Senator Emily Couric, got cancer and couldn’t run.

    4. Tim started the race against Republican Jerry Kilgore as an underdog. He was behind most of the election. He won in a year the rest of the rest of the statewide ticket lost.

    5. Kaine was the first Governor to support fellow Harvard graduate Barack Obama for President when the Illinois Senator was way behind in the polls, and Hillary Clinton a seeming lock for the nomination.

    6. Now, in an unprecedented development, a first-term Senator who could win has decided not to seek re-election.

    7. Lucky number seven. In the closest general election for Senator in Virginia, Tim Kaine…

    Like I said, George Allen can dismiss the above for whatever reason. Moreover, any one item on the list can be explained by the normative rules of such things political. But all of them?

    Look, a politician makes his own luck. And even with the political gods smiling, it still takes talent, effort and yes, campaign luck oftentimes to win an election. In fact, luck is often the key to even getting into the position to have the opportunity in the first place.

    Over the years, Tim Kaine’s had that luck, and then the ability to turn it into electoral success.

    It might look like voodoo — someone sticking a pin into a doll of Tim’s opponent(s). But if George Allen wakes up some morning in the not-too-distant future, and swears he felt a pin prick in his arm, he can’t say he wasn’t warned.  

    • Catzmaw

      and I’m not even saying he’d be a bad candidate.  But I just can’t get as fired up over Kaine as I can over Perriello.  Kaine just doesn’t seem to have that “fire in the belly” whereas Perriello does.  If he gets the nod I’ll support Kaine, but what’s wrong with having a proven newcomer like Tom Perriello?

    • Say What

      but the luck is with Tom Perriello!

      He has shown (explained on the campaign trail) that he’s his own man with a clear vision of what needs to be done for Virginia & the Nation to succeed.

      Jim Webb’s stepping aside was a door opening for Tom Perriello and the many people who admire him for what he stands for.

    • Roland the HTG

      I will gladly vote for Gov. Kaine if he ends up deciding to run and carries the Democratic banner in November. I will gladly work for him. I think he was a very good governor and is a promising Senate candidate.

      But as good as he is, Tom’s even better. I think his genuine nature and presence on the campaign trail is a perfect foil to Allen’s slick smug facade. I see him carrying the torch for pragmatic populist politics with a strong progressive bend.

      I’ll take Kaine. I want Tom.

    • kindler

      Americans tend to downgrade luck because we believe that the successful are those who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, put their nose to the grindstone, and other fine cliches.

      In fact, while fortune favors the well-prepared, the role of luck is huge. Not to downgrade his incredible skills or appeal, but think of Obama’s luck in getting into the Senate when his Republican opponent imploded over a messy divorce, leaving Obama to face (chuckle) Alan Keyes.

      And to mention someone with few skills outside of mascara application, think of Sarah Palin’s luck in being chosen by McCain.

      So yes, someone will get lucky by the opening of this seat, and yes, Kaine is the most likely beneficiary — though I too would prefer Tom P.  

    • Eric

      After looking through these comments I do agree that he’s had a great run and has luck on his side.   He’d also be the best known name running on the Dem side, giving him a solid starting point going into the main race.  He’s also reasonably well liked as a governor, so that’ll help with the less informed centrist votes.   And he’s a really nice guy.

      But he is not who we need if we hope to make any progress in, well, any area.  

      Among his major “accomplishments” as governor was the Transportation Monstrosity.  That wonderful piece of legislation that had to be partially rolled back and was partially found to be unconstitutional.  Ok, it wasn’t all his fault, but he did sign it and praise it.  Oh, and when the sh*t hit the fan with the Abusive Driver Fees, he STOOD WITH THE REPUBLICANS AND DEFENDED IT.  Seriously, he had an opportunity to shove the Republicans under the bus and help other Dems with their campaigns but instead he himself dove in front of the bus to protect the Republicans and crappy legislation.   Nice guy, plays well with everyone, but not what we need.

      How about playing nice with Dominion Power and their Wise county pollution machine, one of his other major accomplishments?  Do we need a Senator who defends and supports one of the worst polluting energy sources, for, um, ??????   I’m not going to rehash this entire argument, but frankly, Kaine totally and unnecessarily blew this one leaving Virginia worse off environmentally, having negligible economic gains, having “addressed” questionable energy needs (as defined by Dominion) while helping, well, Dominion.

      Maybe he’s doing better at the DNC.  

      Let’s see… The Teapublicans and their supporters are having trouble doing anything right, constantly tripping over themselves with things like not supporting the recent 9/11 First Responder bill (even though they exploit the sh*t out of 9/11 at every opportunity), holding benefits for unemployed Americans hostage for tax breaks for the super rich, getting squirrely about freedom and democracy in Egypt (even though they exploit the sh*t out of freedom and democracy at every opportunity), and a host of others.   The Teapublicans have made themselves VERY easy targets and about 2/3 of the country should hate them right about now.  

      So, has the DNC, with Kaine at the helm, made the most of these prime opportunities?  Has the Kaine lead DNC laid waste to the Teapublicans and shown the country what Teapublicans are really all about?  Ummm…  two words…  HELL NO.

      Back to one of the themes: Luck.  I’ll grant you that Kaine’s certainly got it the way the Teapublicans are tripping over their own feet.   But this time he seems incapable of taking advantage of his luck.   Or maybe IT is more of that nice guy, or IT is his middle of the road approach, or IT is his don’t rock the boat (even if you can dump your enemies).

      I really don’t know what IT is, but I do know we don’t need his IT this time around.