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Democrats Pushing Kaine Replacements

photo of Reid Wilson
March 16, 2011

Democrats in Virginia are quietly hopeful former Gov.Tim Kaine will run for Senate, but across the Potomac, the popular parlor game is guessing who will replace Kaine as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Serious candidates interested in the job are not actively campaigning. They need only one vote, President Obama's, to become chairman. But after midterm elections that wiped out many well-known Democrats, Obama has a big field from which to choose.


One name moving up the list: Long-time Democratic activist Donna Brazile, who has become the early favorite among a set of senior party leaders in Washington. Brazile, who ran former Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000 after a long career in party politics and on Capitol Hill, would be the first African American woman to lead the DNC.

But she has stiff competition from bold-faced Democratic names. Democratic insiders are mentioning former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and a host of others. Click through to see the list of possible contenders, based on our conversations with prominent Democrats around Washington:



Donna Brazile, 4-1 odds: The DNC during Obama's re-election bid will be mainly responsible for raising party money, and Brazile's rolodex is one of the party's largest. She's spent decades soliciting the party's biggest donors. As a CNN contributor, Brazile is an experienced surrogate. More than a few prominent party activists are telling those around President Obama to pick her.


Ted Strickland, 6-1 odds: Ohio's former one-term governor lost his seat in November, and now he's the subject of serious speculation in Washington. Strickland has traveled to Washington since his term ended -- we spotted him at a Capitol Hill watering hole a few weeks ago -- and he has a relationship with many of the party's key donors. If Strickland is interested in keeping up a national profile, DNC chairman is one good way to go.

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, 8-1 odds: Granholm has been on a ton of short lists, but she's never actually gotten a job in the administration. Granholm is a frequent surrogate on programs like "Meet the Press," fulfilling one of the job's most basic requirements, and now that she's out of office, there's nothing tying her down. Granholm's only drawback might be her state's high unemployment, which would give Republicans a good zinger if Obama picks her.

Wasserman Schultz, 10-1 odds: The four-term congresswoman has long been on the short list as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, but this year she was passed over in favor of Rep. Steve Israel. A smart, aggressive fundraiser, Wasserman Schultz is a frequent cable news presence making the Democratic case. The biggest thing working against Wasserman Schultz is her day job; being party chairman is a full-time gig, and adding to the responsibilities of a sitting office-holder is a demanding proposition.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, 10-1 odds: Patrick is a close Obama ally, and he's raising his political profile now that he has won a second term. Like Wasserman Schultz, Patrick has a demanding day job. But Kaine was able to do the job and govern, at least for a year. DNC chairman may be the best way for Patrick to participate.

Ex-Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, 15-1 odds: Rendell has done the job before, he's got good relations with the party's donor community and he's a great communicator. But he's such a great communicator that he signed up as a paid contributor to MSNBC. Rendell isn't likely to leave that gig for a job he's already done.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, 20-1 odds: The Democratic Party has few more colorful spokespeople than Schweitzer, who once dumped tens of thousands of dollars on a table in the state capitol to make a point about his opponent's contributions from lobbyists. But he is little-known in Washington, and his personality might just be too big for a job in which the primary role will be to serve as a surrogate for Obama's re-election bid.

Ex-Rep. Tom Perriello, 30-1 odds: If Kaine runs for Senate, Perriello will stay on the sidelines. He was a loyal Obama foot soldier, voting for most of the president's agenda even when he knew it would cost him his seat, and he even brought Obama to campaign in his district in the closing days of the race. If Obama wants to reward loyalty, he could hardly do better than to tap Perriello. Still, picking a one-term former congressman with few ties to the Democratic establishment isn't something that routinely happens.

Robert Gibbs, 40-1 odds: Rumors flew that Gibbs would take over once he left the White House podium, but that's almost certainly not going to happen. Gibbs is hitting the speaker's circuit to make some money, and he'll remain intimately involved in the re-election race. He isn't likely to take the financial hit that serving as DNC chairman would entail -- and he's already said he isn't interested in the job.


Valerie Jarrett, 50-1 odds: President Obama's first pick for DNC chairman was one of his closest political allies. Jarrett is one of Obama's closest personal allies. But it's unlikely she would leave the White House for a post with an organization with which she doesn't have much of a connection.

The Field, 10-1 odds: There are plenty of Democrats with a national profile who lost their jobs in 2010. Obama is looking for someone who can raise big money, perform well the few times they are asked to go on a national television program and generally keep the building running smoothly and fully in support of his own re-election chances, all while avoiding stupid gaffes. When it comes to his choices, Obama's cup runneth over.

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