The calculus behind Tim Kaine’s U.S. Senate bid isn’t about the former governor and current DNC chairman’s strength against any of the likely GOP candidates for the Senate seat or how his close ties to President Obama might affect Kaine’s chances to preserve the Democrats’ tiny majority in the Senate. No, it’s about how a Kaine campaign can bog down Republicans by drawing time and money into Virginia that the GOP would rather spend in other key 2012 battleground states.
For Republicans working to capture a majority in the Senate, the price tag of the Virginia campaign just increased dramatically. Tim Kaine has access to the Democrats’ national fundraising network, and he can certainly count on the fundraiser-in-chief for a few assists.
In the presidential campaign, the eventual GOP nominee can now count on spending a lot more time as well as money in Virginia. By tapping a formidable ally who can organize a strong campaign on the ground, Team Obama is forcing Republicans to play harder in Virginia to avoid a repeat of 2008 that would move Virginia permanently into the toss-up state category. If President Obama can keep Virginia in play throughout the campaign, his chances of being reelected increase. Keeping the Virginia Senate seat in his party’s hands is just a bonus.
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