In 1920, after the GOP had nominated the Harding-Coolidge ticket, a half drunk new england politico was heard ranting that he would give odds that Harding would not survive his term. When cautioned against this outburst, the inebriated one said,”You don’t understand, Calvin Coolidge is the most lucky SOB in the world!”…and, between getting into office during the 20’s economic expansion, avoiding the taint of the Teapot Dome scandals, and then leaving office prior to the Great Depression…the guy apparently knew what he was talking about.
Having some time last week to contemplate politics in the clear forests of Augusta County, and despite my contention that Kaine brings no unique substance to the ticket, I have come to the conclusion that there is a real reason Kaine may snag the VP nod…
…because politically he is one of the luckiest SOB’s in the world. And, as any good poker player knows, when the cards are falling your way you have to press your luck.
Consider the following:
a) Kaine ran for the 2001 LTGov nod as the Mayor of Richmond…but at the time this was not a popularly elected position-it was elected by the City council from amongst its members. Nothing wrong with that, but it means Kaine was fortunate enough to be able to run for statewide office from an elected position where he represented (if my math is correct) less than 25,000 people-far fewer than a member of the House of Delegates or State Senate, or the elected at large mayor of smaller cities like Manassas. Remember, there is a difference between the population of the City of Richmond and the population of the Richmond SMSA.
b) He wins that primary with less than 40% of the vote…not a stunning show of strength.
c) Meanwhile, strange things are going on the GOP side in 2001. Highly conservative and somewhat aging Delegate Jay Katzen, denied the LtG slot in 1997, steals a march on Randy Forbes and attends every fish fry, shad bake, bean dinner, and GOP function for three years. Forbes is running behind Katzen, but as the GOP starts to realize that Forbes would be a much stronger general election candidate Fourth District Democratic Congressman Norm Sissiky dies. Forbes jumps into the special election and wins the seat, leaving Katzen as the all but official LtGov nominee.
d) In the general, despte having a very weak opponent, a strong pull at the top of the ticket, the Gilmore administration economic issues, etc., going his way…Kaine wins with just over 50% of the vote.
e) Kaine bides his time as LtGov, staying out of the spotlight. In 2005, he sits back and allows Jerry Kilgore, accent and all, to self destruct with his Hitler advertisement…but until then the LtGov of a very popular governor had not pulled into the solid lead-as one would expect.
f) As Governor, well, not much to report, but his early endorsement of Barack Obama thrusts his name into the VP conversation.
Tim Kaine does not come to the table with claims of having a successful governorship, nor can he claim that his presence on the ticket will carry Virginia. History is full of national candidates who did not carry their home states. As noted by Lowell Feld, Kaine is perceived to have a bunch of soft and/or assumed strengths…which apparently includes that he is neither Dan Quayle nor Dick Cheney. There is this assumption that his elevation to VP would start a GOP bloodbath in Virginia for the top spot in 2009 that would benefit the democrats.
Normally, I would not put much faith in a the nomination of a candidate whose strengths are all assumptions and perceptions. His weaknesses and deficits are clear. But Kaine has one very real thing going in his favor, and that just cannot be disputed…
…politically he is one of the luckiest SOB’s in the world, and that kind of luck seems to find the hole card at the dangdest times.