Kaine leans further toward U.S. Senate run

Former governor Timothy Kaine ismulling over a Senate bid.
Former governor Timothy Kaine ismulling over a Senate bid. (Steve Helber)
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By Anita Kumar and Rosalind S. Helderman
Tuesday, March 15, 2011; 1:01 PM

RICHMOND -TIMOTHY M. KAINE , chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Monday that he is "increasingly likely" to run for U.S. Senate, his strongest indication yet that he will enter the marquee race that could pit him against former Republican governor George Allen in 2012.

Kaine made the comments to students at a class he teaches once a week at the University of Richmond, which were confirmed by the DNC, while rumors about the remarks swept Twitter on Monday.

"No final decision will be made or announced until the governor has had a final round of consultations with folks about how he can best serve the president, the people and the causes he cares about,'' DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse said.

The state's Democratic establishment embraced Kaine as their strongest chance for keeping the seat since the moment Sen. James Webb announced he would not seek reelection last month.

At a major Democratic fundraising dinner in Richmond last month, state leaders paraded to the stage in front of more than 1,000 activists, each successively encouraging Kaine to run. He has consulted with President Obama and been encouraged to run by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid, both of Virginia's senators and countless state officials.

"This is very reassuring," said state Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), who recently told a Washington area radio station that he believed that there was an obvious "drop-off" in viable candidates after Kaine. "It's not as reassuring as saying, 'I'm definitely running.' But it's very reassuring."

Kaine, who served as Richmond mayor and lieutenant governor, would start the race with strong name recognition - he was the only potential candidate with statewide wins under his belt. Polls have shown that he remains fairly popular in the state. Democrats believe he would make a good partner to Obama, with whom he is close, in a year when the president will make a major push for reelection in Virginia. And they think his contact with national Democrats would bring more resources to bear on the campaign.

Kaine has delayed his decision until next month because he is trying to finish up work at the DNC, and an official campaign announcement would trigger certain federal campaign laws, sources close to the chairman say.

"The truth is there is plenty of time for him to announce,'' said Stephen J. Farnsworth, a political analyst at George Mason University. "Delaying doesn't really hurt him all that much because he's getting plenty of media attention."

Woodhouse said Kaine has DNC commitments through the end of March.

But already, several names have been mentioned to replace him at the national party, including Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, former Texas congressman Martin Frost, former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, former Ohio governor Ted Strickland and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.

Many Republicans think that Kaine's close association with Obama would prove a significant liability with independent voters, whom they believe have soured on the president, since he was the first Democrat to carry Virginia in 40 years.

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