Well, it took more arm-twisting than the climax of Over the Top (that’s right, we just referenced a decades-old Sly Stallone arm-wresting flick—deal with it), but it looks like the Democratic Party politburo finally got their man. After a seemingly interminable period of playing coy, former Governor Tim Kaine took to the Interwebs on April 5 to announce (in both English and impressively enunciated Spanish) that he is indeed running for Jim Webb’s soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat.
Former Governor Tim Kaine
Although his announcement surely disappointed legions of Tom Perriello enthusiasts, it was obviously the Obama administration’s preferred result. And assuming that George Allen secures the Republican nomination, it sets up a battle of political heavyweights not seen since… well, the last time two former Virginia governors fought over a senate seat. Which was three years ago.
Still, it’s sure to be one of the most hotly contested—and closely watched—races in the country, and will almost certainly be seen as a proxy battle for Barack Obama’s quest for re-election. Conventional wisdom has already put Virginia in the “must-win” category for Obama—not necessarily because he needs the electoral votes, but because it’s now seen as a quintessential swing state, and a bellwether for voter sentiment across the country.
But it’s definitely not going to be a cakewalk. A recent Roanoke College poll had Allen up 13 points over Kaine, and ol’ Macaca-mouth has been raking in campaign cash ($1.5 million in the first quarter alone). But Kaine is certainly no slouch in the fundraising department, and his campaign has dismissed the Roanoke poll as flawed, pointing instead to an earlier Public Policy Polling survey that had the two candidates tied at 47 percent apiece.
Of course, before these two titans can ultimately clash, they have to make it through their respective primaries. As of now, only Allen has declared primary opponents—Tea Party darling Jamie Radtke and Hampton Roads lawyer David McCormick—and Kaine is surely hoping that it stays that way. Although the idea of attacking George Allen from the right seems laughable, Radtke is making a go of it, and Kaine is more than happy to egg her on. (When she put out a press release criticizing Allen for his wobbly stance on the recent budget compromise, for instance, Kaine went out of his way to praise her for being “plain about her position.”)
But Kaine’s path to the nomination isn’t completely clear just yet, either. U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, a well-respected Democrat who has represented Newport News for over 20 years, has made no secret of his senatorial ambitions, and pointedly refused to comment on Kaine’s entry into the race.
The only sure thing right now is change. After all, with more than 18 months to go until the election, there’s time enough for a lifetime of political gaffes. Has George Allen finally learned how to control his mouth? Will Tim Kaine be able to corral his rampaging eyebrows? Will either one of them fall victim to inter-party fratricide? Only time will tell—and thankfully for us political parasites, the campaign countdown has barely begun.