Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine continues to mull over the possibility of running for Senate in Virginia, with many party observers suggesting that he is 50-50 (or slightly more) on entering the race.
If Kaine runs for the seat being vacated by fellow Democrat Jim Webb, President Obama will be charged with picking a new man (or woman) to run the DNC — one of the most public faces of the party on the verge of the 2012 election.
The committee has already undergone something of an overhaul — with former White House political director Patrick Gaspard taking over as executive director after Jen O’Malley Dillon’s departure to the Obama reelection campaign-in-waiting in Chicago — but a new chairman would be the most major change.
Although Kaine hasn’t left the job (yet), a short list of potential replacements is already bouncing around the highest levels of Democratic politics. The list is a combination of longtime Obama loyalists and converts, current officeholders, and those who have recently left office either voluntarily or, well, not.
Here’s a look at the serious contenders (listed alphabetically):
l Dick Durbin: Perhaps the president’s closest ally in the Senate, Durbin has proved himself to be an able — and on-message — communicator on television. The Illinois Democrat, who would keep his day job, would also be able to look out for the president’s interests in the day-to-day goings-on in the Senate and ensure solid relations between that chamber and the White House.
l Martin Frost: The former Texas congressman’s name is the one mentioned most often by the party’s campaign strategists who want one of their own atop the committee. And Frost has the campaign chops for the job, having served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and overseen the party’s redistricting effort before the 2002 election. Although Obama might want to reach beyond his closest loyalists for the DNC pick, it’s not clear he wants to go as far afield as Frost.
l Jennifer Granholm : Choosing the former Michigan governor, who left office in January because of term limits, would do two things for Obama. First, Granholm was an endorser of then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 Democratic presidential bid, so naming her to a top post could be spun as a sign of Obama’s willingness to step outside his comfort zone. Second, as a former governor from the Upper Midwest, Granholm is a well versed on a region that could decide whether the president wins a second term. Still, she left office quite unpopular in Michigan, a fact that Republicans would seize on.
l Ted Strickland: The former Ohio governor, an early endorser of Clinton during the 2008 primary fight, evolved into one of Obama’s most effective surrogates during the general election. Strickland’s reelection defeat by John Kasich (R) in November leaves him looking for a job. Ohio will almost certainly, be at the epicenter of the fight for the presidency in 2012, and no one knows the Buckeye State better than Strickland, who, before being elected governor in 2006, spent a decade in the House representing a conservative-minded southern Ohio congressional district.
l Debbie Wasserman Schultz: The Florida congresswoman is a rapidly rising star within the party who might be looking to add to her political portfolio. She is a fierce fundraiser and a regular presence on television. That she hails from Florida, the swingiest of swing states, doesn’t hurt, either.