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Juggling 2 Roles Is Kaine's Third Job

President Obama, right, has called Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine an ideal party chairman, but some have questioned Kaine's ability to balance two jobs and their potential conflicts.
President Obama, right, has called Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine an ideal party chairman, but some have questioned Kaine's ability to balance two jobs and their potential conflicts. (By Kevin Dietsch Via Bloomberg News)

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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 25, 2009

RICHMOND -- As chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean traveled an average of 185,000 miles each year, reaching all 50 states, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Puerto Rico.

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When he wasn't on the road, Dean was never more than a phone call away from state party chairs, Democratic leaders and major donors who helped Dean bank hundreds of millions of dollars for the party.

Now that Timothy M. Kaine has taken over for Dean, the governor of the nation's 12th most populous state is having to learn to juggle two demanding jobs.

Kaine has vowed to limit his DNC activities until Virginia's legislature adjourns in early March. But with nine months remaining in his term as governor, Kaine will face the enormous task of maintaining Dean's 50-state strategy and the massive political organization that President Obama built during his campaign last year.

"I will travel but will just try to make sure my responsibilities as governor get my very focused attention, " Kaine said. At the same time, he pledged "to do a very focused job of keeping this party going."

The divided workload that awaits Kaine has sparked debate within the national party and in Virginia about his ability to successfully manage both jobs while avoiding political, ethical and legal pitfalls.

The last elected official to also serve as a party chairman was former Virginia governor James S. Gilmore III (R). His former aides warn that Kaine could struggle to manage both roles.

"If he is just the guy who talks on the morning shows and puts his name on press releases, he can do it," said M. Boyd Marcus, who served as Gilmore's chief of staff. "But if he is actually running it, he is going to have spend a lot of time there."

Democratic activists also question how Kaine can manage a state with a $75 billion budget and a national political party. Markos Moulitsas, founder of the Daily Kos, an influential liberal blog, said Kaine will undoubtedly have to "shortchange" one of his two jobs.

"Running a party should be a full-time job, and anything less than that is not giving the job what it deserves," Moulitsas said.

When Obama selected Kaine, he called him an ideal party chairman. Kaine, who is Catholic and speaks Spanish, is widely credited with helping Democrats, including Obama, win in Virginia. To ease concerns, Obama dispatched one of his top political advisers, Jennifer O'Malley Dillon, to oversee the party's day-to-day operations.

At the DNC annual winter meeting last week, many party leaders, including Dean, said they had full confidence in Kaine's ability to do both jobs.


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