Here’s a wild plot idea for a new Netflix political series: working title “Kaine Is Able and Warner Is Warmer.”
The story goes like this: Two ambitious men, both representing the same state, roam the halls of Congress. Both are graduates of Harvard Law School. Currently they both hold the same title of “Senator” and in the past both have also held the title “Governor.”
And then these political twins both go after the second highest office in the land at the same time.
It sounds like some Hollywood writer has a vivid imagination, except that it is true. You can watch this saga on all media platforms during the 2015/2016 presidential election season.
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Let’s begin in the present, with Episode I.
Last weekend the junior senator from Virginia, Tim Kaine, made news by endorsing non-candidate Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.
Kaine told Politico, “I am doing a ton for the 14ers, I’m focused on ’14, but I don’t think it’s too early to start making our position known.”
Since politicians always use “our,” “us,” and “we” when they are really only talking about themselves, I will take the liberty of rephrasing Kaine’s statement to read:
“It is not too early to start making my position known.”
And what exactly is his position? Our plot reveals that Kaine’s 2016 goal is a Clinton/Kaine ticket. (The “camera” cuts to a mocked-up Clinton/Kaine bumper sticker hidden in his family Bible.)
But here’s the end–of–Episode I turn: Kaine’s recent power play to endorse Clinton, thus staking out an early position on Clinton’s vice-presidential short list, does not go unnoticed by Kaine’s political twin, the senior senator from Virginia, Mark Warner. Warner already tops every short list to be Hillary’s running mate, should she run.
Now, with the twins’ ambitions firmly established, Episode II begins to apprise the audience of all the pertinent background.
It was 2005 when then–lieutenant governor Tim Kaine ran for governor of Virginia.
At the time, the incumbent governor was the very popular Mark Warner. Warner served from January 2002 to January 2006. Virginia law allows governors only one four-year term.
During 2005, homes in Virginia were inundated with large colorful postcards from Lieutenant Governor Kaine, who was largely unknown, but most of the photos on Kaine’s mailers were of Governor Mark Warner.
Could this have been a highly calculated political strategy leading low-information voters to believe that Mark Warner was running for reelection?
The scene happily ends on election night, as Mark Warner’s “second term” is won by Tim Kaine.
Kaine served as governor from January 2006 to January 2010.
Shortly after leaving office in 2006, now-former governor Mark Warner, never shy about his White House ambitions, immediately flirted with a 2008 presidential run and made news when he dropped out in October 2006.
Instead, Warner ran for the U.S. Senate in 2008, winning 65 percent of the vote.
As previously mentioned, Warner’s name always surfaces when talk turns to Hillary Clinton’s potential V.P. running mates — and for good reasons.
Warner is considered a political moderate, and he’s a multimillionaire self-made businessman and venture capitalist. His potential role as Clinton’s ambassador to the business community on Wall Street, Main Street, and Silicon Valley could yield high rates of return. Warner is like Mitt Romney, but since he is a Democrat, he is not evil.
Warner’s only hurdle is his 2014 Senate reelection bid in what, by all accounts, is shaping up to be a tough year for Democratic candidates. But, with the latest Real Clear Politics poll average showing Warner defeating Republican “establishment” candidate Ed Gillespie by 19 percentage points, Warner should not be worried.
Episode II ends with Senator Mark Warner — smart, rich, light on baggage, but heavy with ambition — rearing and ready to run for president or vice-president, whatever comes first. The surging politician flashes back to a “true story” from Warner’s Wiki profile:
When his parents visited him at college at George Washington University in DC, he obtained two tickets for them to tour the White House. When his father asked him why he didn’t get a ticket for himself, he replied, “I’ll see the White House when I’m president.”
Episode III begins at a Richmond fundraising dinner on February 18, 2007.
The local headline reads: Kaine Endorses Obama at Richmond Fundraiser.
There, Governor Tim Kaine became the first governor outside of Illinois to endorse newly minted Senator Barack Obama for president. This was considered a risky move because Senator Obama had been in office only since January, 2005. The piece reports:
Although Obama has been in the Senate only two years, Kaine said he is not concerned about whether the candidate has enough experience to be president. “The basic experience I’m looking for begins very deeply with values,” Kaine said.
U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to be well-organized in Virginia. She has hired Kaine’s top political strategists from 2005 for leadership positions in her national campaign.
After Obama defeated Clinton for the Democratic nomination, Obama rewarded Governor Kaine for his early support by placing him “very, very high” on his VP short list. However, Kaine’s inexperience matched that of Obama’s, therefore Obama chose the more “experienced” Senator Joe Biden as his running mate.
Governor Kaine’s early bet turned out to be politically astute when in November 2008 Obama turned Virginia blue. Not since 1964, with Lyndon Johnson leading the ticket, had a Democratic presidential candidate won the state.
Ever loyal to his first fans, President-elect Obama named Governor Kaine to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Starting in January, 2009 Kaine held both jobs as he finished his last year in the governor’s chair.
Kaine stayed on as DNC chairman until April 2011. Then in November 2012 he ran for and was elected to the U.S. Senate from Virginia.
Episode III ends with Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, Virginia’s two Democratic senators and former back-to-back governors, plotting their next VP moves in 2015 and 2016. One is a professional politician who married the daughter of a former Virginia governor. He also speaks Spanish and is Catholic. The other is a successful businessman turned politician who in college assumed he would be president and has been waiting patiently ever since.
Finally the preview for Episode IV asks these compelling questions:
Does Kaine’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton in May 2014 signal that Kaine is trying to make amends for his early 2007 endorsement of Obama?
Is Hillary capable of forgiving Kaine for that endorsement?
Will Kaine’s political skills prove exceptionally useful to Clinton when he builds a bridge from Obama’s failing administration to Hillary’s rising campaign?
Did you remember that Kaine speaks Spanish and was chairman of the DNC?
If Mark Warner wins his 2014 reelection by a wide margin, does that further enhance his prospects to be named Hillary’s V.P. candidate — inching ever closer to achieving his presidential dreams?
But wait! The most colorful character of all, the current Virginia governor is briefly introduced. His name is Terry McAuliffe, but his last name might as well be Clinton — for he is a long-time influential member of their political family.
Since Virginia has become an important swing state and a “must win” for the GOP presidential candidate, that means Governor McAuliffe (also a former DNC chairman) will likely play a key role influencing Hillary Clinton to select a Virginia senator as her running mate.
If so, the Kaine/Warner 2016 VP showdown will be the one to watch. (And if Hillary decides not to run, expect even more action.)
That, of course would also be a Republican dream come true.