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Why Kaine Over Sebelius?


Everywhere you look these days it's Tim Kaine, Tim Kaine, Tim Kaine. The Virginia governor has emerged as the "change"-oriented veep choice for Obama. But if we're talking about outside-of-Washington options, why have we forgotten all about Kansas guv Kathleen Sebelius? Has the objection of some--I suspect more like a very vocal few--Hillary supporters to promoting any political woman besides Hillary really dimmed Sebelius's chances?

Anatomy aside, she's just more impressive:

Sebelius first won her governorship in an upset; Kaine had his office more or less bequeathed to him by the outrageously popular Democratic superhero Mark Warner. Sebelius has been governor for six years; Kaine has only three years' top-executive experience. Sebelius co-opted Republicans in her state, shrewdly manipulating the Kansas GOP's internal divisions and even persuading one of its recent chairmen to switch parties and run with her in 2006; Kaine's struggle to control the stubborn Virginia GOP has culminated in a bitter, unproductive battle over transportation. Sebelius balanced Kansas's budget in her first year in office by aggressively routing out administrative waste; while it's not fair to blame Kaine for the general economic slowdown, he doesn't have an achievement on this order he can point to, and Virginia faces a budget shortfall in 2009. Sebelius was one of Time's five best governors of 2005; uber-guru of Virginia politics Larry Sabato wrote last week that "having studied the records of the dozen most recent governors, I would characterize Kaine's term to this point as belonging to the bottom quartile."

Okay, Sebelius bombed her State of the Union response--but so did Kaine!

Don't get me wrong--I like Tim Kaine fine. He was especially good in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting. But Sebelius is the Democratic star in her state, and her particular way of handling Kansas Republicans seems like a model for the sort of political strategy Obama wants to adopt. Kaine is, basically, a no-more-than-fine replacement for Warner (who was another Time best governor, incidentally). Sometimes I wonder if people are actually subconsciously pining for Warner when they champion Kaine for veep.

So far as I can tell, Kaine's advantages over Sebelius consist of these: his swing-state residency (not useless, but I thought consensus is that picking veeps for their regional influence is so last century), his faith (he's Roman Catholic), and his Y chromosome.

Update: Several readers point out Sebelius is also Catholic. 

--Eve Fairbanks