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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.

Several state Democrats have said in local television and radio interviews that Kaine would be their first choice, pointing out he’s never lost a race. Kaine was elected to the city council in Richmond, to be lieutenant governor and to be governor.

State Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D) said in a recent appearance on WAMU radio that it is “no state secret” the Democrats would prefer Kaine over any other candidate, especially since he polls the best in the state.

“It’s a big drop-off from Tim to the next guy,” Saslaw said.

The Senator did not specifically mention ex-Rep. Tom Perriello, a Democrat who was unseated in central Virginia last fall and has said he would consider running if Kaine bows out.

A Democratic strategist familiar with Old Dominion politics told Roll Call that Kaine is “better positioned than anybody else to hold that seat.”

“A lot of people are waiting for him and urging him, not just because he’s the best-known of the potential candidates but because the contrast with George Allen would be incredibly stark and he would run a very, very, very strong campaign,” the strategist said. “There are others that can also make it a race, but Kaine probably starts off in the best spot.”

Should Kaine opt to run, party officials would need to find a new DNC chairman, and Democratic sources told Roll Call those conversations have not started.

But in his new role as executive director of the DNC, Obama’s political lieutenant Patrick Gaspard already has stepped up his involvement since taking the helm. Wednesday he sent his first fundraising e-mail for the party. One source said it would not be a difficult transition should Kaine leave, while another said Obama believes Kaine remains a strong leader in the position.

Kaine suggested as much at the Democratic dinner last month, telling party loyalists that he has enjoyed traveling nationally as a spokesman for the president and noting that he’s in a unique spot to also deliver the Democratic message across the country in Spanish.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has wasted no time attempting to define Kaine as an Obama “cheerleader,” producing a Web video that featured the former governor in a skirt and carrying pompoms.

Roll Call Politics rates this race a Tossup.

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