The Democrats badly need Virginia’s two Senate seats to stay blue, and Barack Obama openly twisted the arm of the once-reluctant Kaine to consider running.
His two most likely opponents are Republican George Allen, a former U.S. senator and, like Kaine, a former governor, and Jamie Radtke, the leader of Virginia’s truncated Tea Party network who has come from out of nowhere to political prominence.
Of the two, Radtke is by far the more interesting possibility. She has shown considerable leadership skills in herding together the disparate factions of the state Tea Party movement. Plus, as a William & Mary-trained political scientist, her positions are considerably more sophisticated than the average Tea Partier’s predictable platform on guns, the Constitution and individual rights.
Allen is the favorite of the state Republican establishment, and he spent the last few years in a sinecure job pushing conservative energy policy. Radtke’s not afraid to go after such types, as she has House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, whom she criticizes for not going far enough with budget cuts.
From Kaine’s perspective, it’s good news if Radtke becomes a thorn in Allen’s side. The problem is that Radtke represents a lot of cross-party resentments that could be toxic to Kaine as well. After all, he led the national Democratic Party during November’s Republican trouncing.
Radtke will make things interesting for both Kaine and Allen.