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Kaine Returns From Vacation to Senate Rumors

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DNC Chairman Tim Kaine is widely considered Democrats’ strongest candidate for Senate in Virginia.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine this weekend will attend a tribute dinner for ex-Rep. Rick Boucher, keeping himself engaged with Virginia Democrats as he decides whether to run for Senate.

A top Virginia Democrat told Roll Call that Kaine has accepted an invitation to the dinner scheduled for Saturday night in Wytheville. The Southwest Virginia event will pay tribute to the 28-year House career that ended when Boucher was unseated last fall by now-Rep. Morgan Griffith (R).

Kaine began his gubernatorial campaign in 2005 in Southwest Virginia, a critical region for Democrats hoping to win statewide.

Former state party Chairman Dick Cranwell of Roanoke said he believes Kaine will run. He said ex-Sen. George Allen, who is likely to win the Republican party nod despite facing a primary challenge, should not expect an easy race. Cranwell and others believe President Barack Obama, a close friend of Kaine’s who will attempt to win Virginia’s 13 electoral college votes a second time in 2012, would boost the Democratic candidate on the ticket, and vice versa.

“Tim understands how important it is for the president to carry Virginia in this next go around, and he helps with that for sure,” Cranwell said.

Linda DiYorio, a longtime Boucher aide who is helping to organize the 400-person event, pointed out that when Kaine first ran in a Democratic primary to be lieutenant governor in 2001, Boucher was one of the first endorsements he earned.

“He and Congressman Boucher were very close,” she told Roll Call. But she doesn’t expect any announcements Saturday since it will be Boucher’s night, even though Democrats are eager to know Kaine’s plans. “Before anybody jumps on any bandwagons, they are waiting to hear from him,” DiYorio said.

(Boucher has been floated as a possible Senate candidate since Democratic Sen. Jim Webb announced he won’t seek a second term. But a source close to the former Congressman said that isn’t likely.)

Kaine’s friends and Virginia associates increasingly think he’s going to go for it. One Democrat said Kaine’s father-in-law, former Republican Gov. Linwood Holton, has been urging him to run. Sen. Mark Warner has mounted a more public pressure campaign, telling Virginia Democrats at their annual dinner last month that he wants his friend to join him in Washington, D.C. Warner also will attend the Boucher dinner Saturday.

Kaine just returned from a family vacation and has spoken privately with some of his advisers, but some of Kaine’s top campaign people in Virginia haven’t yet heard from him either way. Several said they would be willing to help out, even informally, should Kaine jump in.

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