Appraising Kaine

Dear Odd:
I’m the once-beloved governor of a mid-size, Southern, formerly Jeffersonian brick-red Commonwealth with a deeply divided populace. (In fact, one of our more impolitic congressfolks once referred to it as “one-third Northern Virginia and the rest Alabama.”) I’ve tried everything I can to make everyone happy, but it just doesn’t seem to be working! How can I tell if people still like me? And if they don’t, what the heck can I do about it?—Vexed in VA

Dear Vexed:
Well, first off, buck up, camper! According to the most recent SurveyUSA poll, you’re still sitting pretty, with an overall approval rating of 56 percent—those are numbers that President Bush would kill for! (Or at least send an overtaxed National Guard unit into a foreign country to kill for.) But still, it’s true that things haven’t exactly been going your way as of late, so let’s take a gander at a few of the warning signs that indicate you might be losing a bit of the ol’ executive luster:

Buck up, Timmy. There’s always the vice presidency.

1) Your hair-splitting stances on such hot-button topics as abortion (which, as a devout Catholic, you have a “faith-based opposition” to) and the death penalty (which you’ve suggested should be halted until it “works fairly”) have done little to win you fans on either side of the electoral divide. In fact, doing things like announcing a moratorium on all executions in April 2008 (pending the outcome of a Supreme Court death penalty case) and then overseeing Virginia’s record-setting 100th execution in June achieve the rare political perfecta of pissing off both Republicans and Democrats equally.

2) Calling a special legislative session to address the estimated $1 billion black hole in Virginia’s transportation budget might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it does you no favors to blow nearly $100,000 in taxpayer-funded overtime only to have the Republicans run procedural rings around your party, and then subject your very own funding proposal to a humiliating 98-0 shellacking. Sure, jokes comparing this farcical House session to an episode of “Seinfeld” (“a show about nothing”) are amusing, but you’re still going to need a snow shovel-size spatula to get the egg off your face on this one.

3) Finally, you know you’re in deep doo-doo with your base when the folks at, a political blog founded in 2005 largely to help boost your chances in that year’s gubernatorial race, become so disillusioned with your actions (especially the endorsement of conservative Dem Gerry Connolly over progressive heartthrob Leslie Byrne in Virginia’s 11th congressional district) that they actually remove your name from the header and replace it with a giant “RK.”

All right, Vexed, we can see why you might be a bit worried about sustaining your current level of popularity. And so, to address the second part of your question, we have only one suggestion: You need to take this act on the road, friend! Now that all of the other big-name Virginia politicians (you know, your Webbs, Warners and whatnot) have categorically removed themselves from the Democratic veepstakes, it would behoove you to do everything in your power to hitch yourself to Barack Obama’s finely tuned, White House-bound presidential projectile.

Don’t pretend that you haven’t thought about it, either. What with everyone from Robert Novak to Republican strategist Mike Murphy to the market geniuses at InTrade placing you atop Obama’s must-pick list, you’d be a fool not to try and jump ship before buyer’s remorse really starts to set in.

Look at it this way: snagging the second spot on the Democratic ticket is like the world’s biggest do-over. You get to try the whole balancing act once more from the top, only this time on a national stage. What could be better? Just do us a favor, Vexed—try not to burn so many bridges this time around, O.K.? After all, we’d hate to have to change the name of our new blog,

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