Cheerleading for Obama Hurts Kaine's Chances in 2012

Tim Kaine's vocal support for Obama, Pelosi, and Reid could hurt him in a senate race.

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A twenty-year veteran of politics, Doug Heye most recently served as communications director for the Republican National Committee. Heye has also served as a press secretary and communications director in the United States Senate, House of Representatives, the Executive Branch and political campaigns throughout the nation.

"I just want everybody here to know that he has done an outstanding job for me."

With those words, spoken at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser this week in New York, President Barack Obama made the unofficial announcement: DNC Chairman Tim Kaine is running for Senate.

It's easy to understand why the president is keen to see Kaine run for Senate: he has been elected statewide, will draw a national fundraising base, and is regarded as an honorable person. And, not insignificantly, he would coast to the nomination without a costly primary fight, something the president's public statements ensure.

Those are strong credentials to bring into a race. But will they be enough to outweigh Kaine's massive liabilities—liberalism, lack of achievement as governor, and serving as the chief defender of the faith as voters throughout the nation, including Virginia, rejected the Obama agenda?

[See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]

"Tim Kaine is arguably the most liberal governor Virginia has ever elected," Virginia political analyst and University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato said just days after Kaine's election. Less than one week after becoming governor, Kaine proved this to be true, raising taxes on vehicle insurance and registration and breaking a pledge he made during the campaign. Similarly, when it came time to make good on a pledge to reduce the state's property taxes, Kaine punted.

When not trying to raise taxes or preventing promised tax relief from taking effect, Kaine's record as governor has little to show. His pre-kindergarten agenda went nowhere, while the failure of his transportation was seen as a disaster. As Sabato later noted, Kaine's "executive tenure has recorded few significant successes and one giant, overriding failure in the transportation field where Kaine hoped to make his mark."

In fairness, Kaine spent his last year as governor splitting time as DNC Chair, limiting some potential successes, but that is not likely to win over Virginia voters, for whom naming a Kaine Administration accomplishment is akin to "Stump the Band."

[See a gallery of editorial cartoons about Obama.]

And it is Kaine's decision to accept the job as DNC Chair or, more accurately, his outspokenness in the role, which is his greatest barrier to entry to the Senate. The job of DNC Chair last cycle demanded an aggressive and on-point promotion the Obama/Pelosi/Reid agenda. Tim Kaine did this job well.

Towards the fall of 2010, Kaine's media presence rose significantly. He appeared on morning shows, Sunday shows, even comedy shows. This omnipresence on television has given the research and communications staffs at the Republican National Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Virginia Republican Committee an abundance of Kaine quotes and clips from which to choose.

So far was Kaine in the Obama/Pelosi camp, he went after Democrats promising to stand up to their party leadership as "crazy" and "nuts." When asked by Fox News' Chris Wallace if he stood by those remarks, Kaine doubled-down, saying those Democrats—which included Democrats on the ballot in his home state of Virginia—were "foolish."

Indeed, given that Kaine was willing to publicly lash out at members of his own party trying to keep the House of Representatives in Democratic hands, Republican criticisms of Kaine as an "Obama cheerleader" are understatements. Kaine's aggressive television presence and willingness to go after his own make him the "Cheerleader-in-Chief," or, to borrow from Frank Sinatra, Kaine is "top of the list, king of the hill, A #1."

[See the month's best political cartoons.]

In 2009 and 2010, while Obama's unpopularity with voters in Virginia grew, Tim Kaine walked himself out as far as he could to defend every move President Obama made. In 2012, we'll find out if that meant he was walking on a plank.