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By Jacob Geiger April 5, 2011

Tim Kaine said he would not run for Senate

The worst-kept secret in Virginia is now official: Democrat Timothy M. Kaine is running for the U.S. Senate.

Kaine, a former governor and currently the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, made the announcement in an April 5 Twitter message. He’ll be seeking the seat next year held by Democrat Jim Webb, who is not running for re-election.

Webb announced his retirement on Feb. 9, confirming months of speculation that he would not run for a second term. The senator had shown little interest in raising money or assembling a campaign staff.

Three weeks before Webb said he was leaving, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell put the big question before Kaine during an interview.

"And if Jim Webb does not run, would you consider that Senate race?" she asked.

"No, I’ve got a job I really like right now, tough though it may be," Kaine said, referring to his DNC chairmanship. "And I’m doing what the president wants me to do. And so, no, my full expectation is that I’m going to be supporting a great Virginia Democrat, and I believe that Virginia Democrat will be Jim Webb for the Senate seat."

In late January, Kaine also told reporter Jim Nolan of the Richmond Times-Dispatch that another run for public office was unlikely -- at least until his 15-year-old daughter, now in high school, had finished up with college.

"I could wake up after Annella's out of college and say I want to do it, but I know myself pretty well," Kaine said. "You get spoiled being an executive — being a legislator is not the best way for me to serve others right now, and I find it hard for me to contemplate a future where I say that is the best way for me to serve."

No doubt, Kaine’s been under pressure to run since the moment Webb announced he would not.  Rank-and-file Democrats chanted "Run, Tim, Run," at the state party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner on Feb. 14. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and state party Chairman Brian Moran said they wanted Kaine to join the race.

Perhaps the greatest pressure came Feb. 16, when President Barack Obama told a Richmond television reporter that he had been in touch with Kaine by phone and was eager to know what the former governor planned to do.

"I think he would be a great senator from Virginia if he chose to do that," Obama told NBC 12’s Ryan Nobles.

Before Webb’s retirement, Kaine said he was doing what the president wanted in serving as Obama’s hand-picked DNC chairman. But with the stakes for the Virginia senate seat growing, the president seems to have changed his mind about where he wants Kaine.

Former Gov. and U.S. Sen. George Allen is seeking the Republican nomination for the senate. Allen barely lost the seat to Webb in 2006. Also running in the GOP primary are Tea Party activist Jamie Radtke and David McCormick, a Virginia Beach lawyer.

Kaine appeared with Obama at a March 29 fundraiser in New York. The president said his ally would make an excellent legislator. Obama urged major donors to support Kaine if he joins the race.

While Kaine certainly said he would not run for the Senate, he also expressed a desire to do "what the president wants me to do." Once Webb said he would not seek reelection, Obama began encouraging Kaine to run.  

So we rate Kaine’s candidacy a Half Flip. 

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Twitter, Gov. Tim Kaine, April 5, 2011.

Kaine for Senate, Best decision I ever made, April 5, 2011.

MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell Reports, transcript, Jan. 18, 2011.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, Catching up with Tim Kaine, Jan. 30, 2011.

The Washington Post, Jim Webb’s fundraising is (still) lagging, Feb. 1, 2011.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, Webb’s decision not to run scrambles 2012 Senate race, Feb. 9, 2011.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, Obama wants to know Kaine’s intentions on Senate race, Feb. 17, 2011.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, Pressure increases on Kaine to undertake Senate run, Feb. 15, 2011.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, Classroom confession: Kaine increasingly likely to seek Senate seat, March 15, 2011.

The Associated Press, Obama pushes Kaine toward Senate bid, March 30, 2011.

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Tim Kaine said he would not run for Senate

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