Why People Like Tim Kaine

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine held a telephone blogger conference yesterday afternoon. His most interesting comments came at the tail end of the session, when a blogger identified as Joshua with Raising Kaine, the hugely popular pro-Democratic Party blog, asked the Governor about the political impact of his decision to work with the Republicans on their transportation legislation. Coming to an agreement with the GOP, as I read the sub-text of his question, neutralized the Democrats’ big campaign issue this fall.

I replicate Joshua’s question almost verbatim, but not quite; he spoke a little faster than I could type: “I see you as the coach for Virginia Democrats. I find the message from the transportation bill and this session not necessarily conducive to the goal of helping Democrats win. … In terms of winning in November, where’s the plan? How do we take the message and win the legislature?”

Kaine didn’t seem particularly concerned about the Democratic Party message in the General Assembly elections this fall. His response: “While I’m Governor … I define my role as 60 percent chief executive, 30 percent interacting with the legislature, and 10 percent [Democratic Party] coach. … My goal is getting results.”

Thank you, Governor. It’s nice to know that your Number One priority is the well being of the Commonwealth, not creating Democratic Party talking points for the next election. As one of the 40 percent or so of the electorate that classifies itself as “independent,” I, too, am far more interested in the well being of Virginia than I am of either political party. As for the merits of the legislation itself, I’ll leave that for another blog post. But your heart is in the right place.

Update: Well, at least the Governor’s rhetoric is in the right place. I was praising the Governor to a Republican delegate during the VCAP reception for Newt Gingrich last night. The delegate (who spoke off the record) seemed less than impressed. GOP legislators had boxed Kaine into a corner with the transportation legislation, he said. Politically, the Governor could not allow himself to be perceived as the one responsible for torpedoing a transportation solution that had proven elusive for so many years. As I interpreted the delegate’s meaning, once Republicans crafted a far-reaching legislative package, Kaine had to go along or he’d jeopardize the Democrats’ chances in the upcoming elections.

That’s a plausible interpretation. At the very least, give Kaine credit for this: He’s smart enough to know when to look like he’s rising above partisan politics. Virginians like that. Virginians do want results. And in the long run, governing well is the best political strategy of all.

Update: Not Buck Turgidson offers much the same interpretation as the delegate I quote above. Read his post on Bearing Drift.

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3 responses to “Why People Like Tim Kaine”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Talk about faint praise!

    Kaine had political options as well as governance options.

    Kaine chose to govern.

    and I sense a hint of disappointment from some of the R’s.

    jeeeeze… am I sick of back and forth partisan playground politics these days.

    Kaine chose a path that benefited Virginians rather than one that would result in even more partisan turmoil.

    Was it the greatest thing since sliced bread?

    Nope.. still plenty to do.. but at least the table is set to do it.

    So – Jim..you done a good thing.


  2. Hey Jim,

    I was similarly impressed with the Governor’s take on the sitution. As a staunchly partisan Democrat, I sometimes lose the forrest for the trees, but Tim Kaine continues to keep his head clear.

    The best example of this was back during the 2005 election season. When Jerry Kilgore came out with his “Despicable ‘Hitler’ ad”, many of us wanted Kaine to come back, cannons blazing. Kaine, to his credit, let his much cooler head prevail. He gave a clear, positive accounting of himself and proved himself to many as truly worthy of Mark Warner’s legacy.

    This transportation standoff may be a similar event with much more lasting ramifications. Kaine was able to take a real pig of a bill from republicans and turn it into a truly workable plan that is gaining widespread acceptance.

    Where many of us on our side of the aisle saw only an opportunity for a big fight, Kaine and a number of other Democrats seem to have found a way to provide Virginia with a potentially lasting solution to the most pressing issue in the commonwealth.

    I hope I’ll get a chance to meet you sometime. If you’re at Sorensen or Martinsville this year, I’ll make it a point to introduce myself. Last year I got a chance to meet Will Vehrs, which was my honor.

    All the best,

    Josh Chernila

  3. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Josh, If there’s another blogger conference this year, I will do my best to attend. (I missed both conferences last year.) I hope to meet you then.

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