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Analysis: As Former Governor, Kaine May Get A Reality Check In Senate

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Virginia Senator-elect Tim Kaine is in the process of transitioning to Capitol Hill after winning election this fall. Kaine is one of two former governors heading to the Senate in January, and he's now one of several Virginia governors to later win U.S. Senate seats. The transition from the governor's mansion to the U.S. Capitol has been frustrating for some of Kaine's predecessors. Shane Goldmacher, congressional correspondent for National Journal, talks with WAMU's Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey about the transition to the Senate for governors. Here are some highlights: 

The most important for Kaine to keep in mind as he heads to Capitol Hill: "For a lot of politicians it's a real shock. As governor, you're the CEO of a state, you make a decision, it's implemented, you've got hiring and firing authority over thousands and thousands of people," Goldmacher says. "You joint the Senate and you are the junior-most member in a place where seniority matters." 

Who has weathered the transition particularly well: "Al Franken, though he wasn't a governor … he came in, stopped cracking jokes put his head down, joined committees and started trying to rewrite laws," Goldmacher says. "Instead of trying to make a splash on your own, really the challenge is you have you have to work with this collegial body." 

How Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and former Virginia Sen. George Allen handled the transition: "George Allen, when he was in the Senate, he complained after having been governor that it moved 'at the pace of a wounded sea slug,'" Goldmacher says. "He didn't seem to care for it much but cared for it enough that he wanted to run again. Mark Warner similarly is sort of widely believe to not be enjoying the senate quite as much as he enjoyed his term as governor." 

On how Kaine's role as the former party chairman could affect his standing in the Senate: "Tim Kaine really ran his campaign as a compromiser, he said he was going to come in and work with Republicans, work with Democrats, try to come to agreements," he said. "But he was on TV for two years bashing Republicans at every turn. That can make it a challenging environment. That said, a lot of the Senate's history is you come in and whatever your past was, if you behave as a good member of the body in good standing, you can work with everyone and get a lot done."


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