Though my weekend at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s 2010 Convention was full of great times and wonderful experiences, one of the biggest highlights has to be the opportunity I was given to sit down and ask DNC Chair and former Governor of Virginia Tim Kaine a few questions about the 2010 election cycle.
Acknowledging the difficult political climate Democrats face heading into the 2010 midterm election, given the historical trend that the party in the White House typically loses some seats in Congress, I asked Chairman Kaine what he viewed as the biggest challenge Democrats face heading into November. Kaine noted that while Democrats had a historic win in 2008 thanks to unprecedented levels of enthusiasm and excitement for Democratic candidates, the challenge for the Democratic Party this year would be to replicate that enthusiasm and excitement for Democratic candidates in 2010. Kaine went on to add that the combination of the passage of health care reform and other legislative accomplishments in Congress would play a big role in generating excitement for Democrats across the nation, but he went on to add there also needs to be a grassroots effort to ensure that those first time voters who were so important to Democratic victories in 2008 turn out to vote again in 2010.
Asked what he felt would be the number one race for Democrats in win in November, Chairman Kaine first cited the recently concluded special election in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional district as an “interesting race” in that the Republican Party said they could win that seat, given the makeup of the 12th Congressional district, yet the Democrat in that race, Mark Critz, won that race easily. Kaine added that if the Republican Party couldn’t win in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional district, he had to wonder if there would actually be a Republican wave heading into the November elections. As our conversation continued, Kaine did add that he believed the Missouri Senate race between Republican Congressman Roy Blunt and Democrat Robin Carnahan, currently Missouri’s Secretary of State, was a race to watch, as it pitted Carnahan, a Washington outsider, against Rep. Blunt, who Kaine categorized as a Washington insider. Kaine added it would be a “big deal” if Democrats won in Missouri, thus picking up a seat currently held by Republicans.
As our conversation shifted to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s 2010 convention, I asked Chairman Kaine why he chose to speak at the convention, and he noted he’s only attending eight or nine state conventions this year. Answering my question, Kaine was quick to say he’s a “real fan” of Governor Jim Doyle, adding that the gubernatorial race here in Wisconsin matters a great deal to him, especially as a former governor himself. Chairman Kaine went on to note Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett “has a great profile,” given Barrett’s economic development experience, adding that Barrett would be a good Chief Executive for Wisconsin.
Chairman Kaine also added that Sen. Russ Feingold “is an interesting case study” for this year’s elections, opining that Sen. Feingold will face very little problem with the anti-Washington sentiment that seems to be prevalent this year, as Sen. Feingold was, in his opinion, a Wisconsin guy, not a Washington guy. Chairman Kaine added the manner in which Sen. Feingold has served is a great model on how to avoid the “Washington taint,” as Kaine called it.