By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
Expectations that Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine will be installed as chairman of the Democratic National Committee by President-elect Barack Obama suggest strongly that the party headquarters will continue the move by outgoing Chairman Howard Dean to expand the party beyond its old 18-state model. Party officials say Obama's pick of Kaine indicates that the new president both wants to reward and recognize support from traditionally GOP states like Kaine's Virginia and to expand the party's march into Republican territory. Kaine backed Obama very early in the Democratic primaries and helped to turn the home of the Confederacy into a Democratic state that backed Obama in the general election. The officials said that Kaine would be the second party chairman to move away from the old, urban-state-based approach of sustaining support in 18 key states to a more expansive approach that is likely to include outreach in southern states and traditional Republican strongholds like Texas. One official said that like Obama and Dean, Kaine understands the value in toning down the harsh partisan rhetoric while reaching out to new voters. Dean's move was controversial four years ago, but now even his critics give him credit for rebuilding the party in all 50 states, a move that the Obama campaign was able to piggyback off in its 2008 victory.