Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine at a campaign stop in October.(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
After a weeks-long deliberation process following Sen. Jim Webb's (D-Va.) announcement in early February he would not seek reelection, Kaine is poised enter what promises to be a marquee 2012 Senate showdown in a presidential battleground state.
The news does not come as a surprise. After a period of uncertainty, it became increasingly clear in recent weeks that Kaine was leaning toward a run.
Control of the Senate is in serious jeopardy for Democrats, who will largely be playing defense in 2012. Kaine is the biggest name recruit Democrats have landed for a competitive open seat race in 2012 so far, and his decision to run gives the party a much needed boost as they seek to hold a critical seat for the party.
Despite Kaine's entrance into the race, an aide to Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said the congressman would continue contemplating his own bid. "He's going to stick to his July 1 schedule," said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Former Sen. George Allen (R), who Webb narrowly defeated in 2006, entered the race in late January, and is the decided front-runner on the GOP side, though he is not alone in the primary, as tea party activist Jamie Radtke, among others, is also in the race, and is running to Allen's right.
Allen was once viewed as a potential presidential candidate for the 2008 cycle, but his 2006 Senate race loss came after his much-publicized incident in which Allen called an Indian-American Democratic operative "macaca," a development that dealt his campaign a damaging blow. It remains to be seen how much the incident will matter in the 2012 campaign.
"The Republicans have a real tea party primary on their hands, and George Allen has a long record of spending and debt that will be a major issue in this race. Rank and file conservatives are not as enthusiastic about his candidacy as the establishment in Washington D.C," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Patty Murray.
Kaine will receive criticism from Republicans who will say he is too close to President Obama. He is already being cast by the National Republican Senatorial Committee as the "Cheerleader-in-Chief" for Obama's policies.
"Over the last several years, Tim Kaine has been the most vocal cheerleader in Washington for the reckless fiscal policies and massive expansion of government that have been the hallmark of the Obama Administration," said NRSC spokesperson Brian Walsh.
"While Chairman Kaine may try to paint a different picture of his tenure as Governor, it was marked by his proposals calling for staggering tax increases and by substantial job losses for Virginians," said Allen spokesperson Katie Wright.
Obama won Virginia by just over six points in 2008, but Republicans have enjoyed recent success in the state, picking up three House seats in 2010 and winning the 2009 gubernatorial race in decisive fashion.
Both parties will have an eye on winning the swing state in the presidential race and voters will likely see an onslaught of outside spending on various races. Both Kaine and Allen are well-known, well-funded candidates who know how to win statewide. Assuming both emerge from their respective primaries, they will likely find themselves in a competitive general election race in a presidential year, all but guaranteeing there will be no shortage of high stakes political news in the commonwealth come 2012.
This post was updated at 4:33 p.m.-- Dan Roem contributed to this post --
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