PROS: A two-time statewide winner, the former Richmond mayor understands the state's political map, sports universal name recognition and can raise lots of money thanks to his perch as DNC chairman. He would be well-positioned to run up the score in the growing Northern Virginia suburbs - he took 60 percent of the vote there in the 2005 gubernatorial race.
CONS: Unlike 2005, Kaine will have to run as his own man, and would not have Sen. Mark Warner
's (D) coattails to run on. Instead, he'd be connected to Pres. Obama
, and his fortunes will be tied to a president in a state that Democrats have won only once since 1964 in a presidential election. There are likely to be few Obama-George Allen
ticket splitters if the former Senator is the GOP nominee.
The question is whether Kaine can stay even with independents and pick off enough Republicans that may have liked him as governor but not as the Democrats' national spokesperson.
2. Former Rep. Tom Perriello
PROS: Perriello, who is already the subject of a draft
movement, is well-liked within the state party and built a reputation as a hard worker willing to travel extensively to meet with constituents during his two years in office. (He held more town hall meetings than nearly any other freshman.) He also won the support of the NRA in 2010 and surpassed the expectations of political observers in 2010 by pulling 47 percent of the vote against Rep. Robert Hurt
(R) despite a voting record more liberal than his district - in a very Republican year.
CONS: The biggest concern for Democrats is whether his staunch support of the president on his signature issues - health care and the cap-and-trade energy bill, in particular -- will make him an unacceptable alternative among moderates and independents in the general election. Based on his 2010 election results, it would hurt him but not as badly as conventional wisdom suggests. Kaine carried the 5th district with less than 50% of the vote in 2005 and Obama lost it in 2008, the year Perriello won.
3. Rep. Gerry Connolly
PROS: Connolly won the fifth-tightest race in the country last year by 981 votes and has the most name recognition within populous Northern Virginia aside from Kaine. That is due to his lengthy tenure as Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman and his two terms in Congress. Connolly does have a moderate streak: he broke with his party on extending tax breaks and paying down the deficit. He is extremely well connected within the defense industry, a prolific fundraiser and well-versed on health care.
CONS: His narrow win over Tea Party-backed businessman Keith Fimian
(R) suggests that Connolly does have electoral weaknesses back home. Connolly would also have to give up what will likely to be a safer House seat after redistricting in order to run for Senate. Perriello is also viewed more favorably within the activist community than Connolly, who beat back a challenge from his left by former Rep. Leslie Byrne
(D) in 2008 to capture the Dem nod for the 11th.
4. The Field
Former Rep. Rick Boucher
, who lost re-election in 2010, is a longer-shot candidate and is more likely to pursue his former House seat than run statewide depending on what happens with redistricting. Another former Democratic congressman who lost in 2010, Glenn Nye
, said late last week the he is not interested
Two Democratic state senators who may consider a Senate run if Kaine passes on a campaign are Chap Petersen
and Donald McEachin
. Both lost previous runs for statewide office and both worked their way up through the state legislature. McEachin is a favorite of Democratic activists and defeated a Democratic state Senator who endorsed Allen in 2006.
Dels. Kenneth Alexander
(D) and David Englin
(D) are both weighing runs but would be long-shots, with very low name recognition.
There are two other big-name Democrats to keep an eye that could have a major impact if they entered the race. Former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe
, who lost the 2009 gubernatorial primary, has been preparing a campaign for governor in 2013. He's previously said that the Senate does not appeal to him but as a true Washington insider, it's hard to say McAuliffe would not at least seriously consider the race.
Author John Grisham
made a big splash for Democrats in 2006 by bringing in fellow author Stephen King
for a joint fundraiser that netted big bucks for Webb. He also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Perriello last year. Grisham, who turned 56 on Tuesday, has a home in Albermarle County (near Perriello's political base of Charlottesville) and previously served in the Mississippi state House. Both Grisham and McAuliffe could also self-fund a campaign.