Warner vs. Kaine in 2016

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    By Paul Goldman

    One reason I tweeted last week that “Kaine 100% to run” is because I believe Tim has the ambition of running for President in 2016. Thus, he needs to be either Governor again or Senator. No cabinet member since Herbert Hoover has been elected President, while the last to hold national office is former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. Both Hoover and Cheney are Republicans, of course. The last Democratic cabinet member to win national office was Vice-President Henry Wallace, the former Agriculture Secretary under FDR.

    So, if the Timster wants a seat at the poker table for the Big House, then he needs to run for Senate next year. If he doesn’t, then he takes himself out of the Governor’s race for good too. Presidential lightning could strike, but even the Timster doesn’t have that kind of luck.

    Mark Warner ran for President in 2008, and he presumably entertains the hope of being on a national ticket again. So Warner vs. Kaine in 2016 is a realistic point for discussion.

    This is particularly true given what Warner is doing, as discussed in this space last month.

    He has tried, successfully so, to get ahead of the President on what Republican Governor Mitch Daniels calls the “new red menace” — that is, the national debt. That was clever of the former Reagan budget guy, and well-regarded chief executive, for those who remember the Cold War. As for anyone but political junkies, or people without a tattoo, Daniels will have to come up with a comparison a bit more relevant to today’s world (Lady Gaga, perhaps?) if he wants to be heard. Still, give Mitch credit for a good line.

    As for Mark Warner, he’s staked out his claim to be a debt-bomb hawk while the President plays a more cagey game. Warner has thereby endorsed what most other elected politicians on the Democratic side try to avoid – charges that you want to cut Medicare, Social Security, and key domestic programs while doing business-friendly things that will make Wall Street billions. You know the drill.

    To his credit, Warner is trying to be substantive. But the politics of complex issues are, well, really complex. Warner has staked out positions based on his view of the future. These things have a way of not going according to Hoyle.

    Also, national political issues tend to become bumper sticker words. This is why Sarah Palin thinks she has the right stuff to be President. She is the Queen of such thinking, believing that 10 seconds of knowledge is enough to be knowledgeable. The country knows it can’t be run by a bumper sticker. Maybe Palin would have made a good President under the Articles of Confederation. Perhaps that will be her big idea.

    Still, the politics of the game mean that Warner has shown guts by stepping out on the plank, knowing Democratic interest groups and his fellow lawmakers are behind him with their saws sharpened. But Mark is a big boy and can handle himself. His big risk is Governor McDonnell and a resurgent VA GOP.  However, for 2016, Warner has taken what historically has proven be a losing risk for Democratic presidential hopefuls. My advice would be to be a lot bolder, really make a name for yourself. As they say, in for a trillion, in for ten trillion.

    Enter Tim Kaine. He can now run and win a Senate seat in 2012. That frees him up for a no-lose Presidential run in 2016. Mark has to seek re-election in 2014, always a tough year for the incumbent party in the second term of a presidency. If he draws McDonnell, it could be a titanic fight. As George Allen found in 2006, trying to run for re-election while planning to then turn around and run for President is tricky.

    So for 2016, it will be advantage Kaine come 2013 if he is the new Senator from Virginia, his buddy President Obama having won 4 more years.

    The President will have to back someone for the White House in 2016. I happen to believe Vice-President Joe Biden will make the run. He will be 74, young enough by Chinese standards, which I suppose we will have to start emulating the way everything else is going lately. Why wouldn’t Biden run if he is healthy? Surely the President has to back him. A Biden-Kaine ticket is a natural, although it will make Norman Vincent Peale turn over in his grave [that’s a 1960 presidential contest reference. The anti-Catholic crowd was out big, led by the Reverend. JFK handled it brilliantly; one should read his speech in Texas confronting them. ]

    But if Biden decides not to run, then it is an open field. Like I say, the Big O has to back someone.

    The Kaine vs. Warner battle for 2016 starts this weekend at the party’s J-J Dinner. The Timster is coming to make sure Tom Perriello doesn’t steal the show.

    Kaine has his eyes on the White House, as well he should. Anyone who has seen him on TV knows that he has the ability to be at the final table when the 2016 cards get dealt.

    As President Obama showed again – and as my co-authored article in Politico.com today likewise discusses – a long-term tenure in the Senate isn’t a good Presidential candidate resume. But for Obama, I believe it would be the Clinton-Warner Administration today.

    Such is life.

    Thus the great Warner vs. Kaine irony which writers love. Warner needs Kaine to win because if Allen wins, then the VA GOP juggernaut builds stream, making their victory in 2013 more likely, thus putting more pressure on the retiring McDonnell to go after Warner.

    But the price is high for Warner: he has to let Kaine get a better seat at the presidential poker table than himself for now.

    The political gods certainly have a wicked sense of humor.