Zernike Lauds "Charismatic," "Inspiring Speaker" Dem. Tim Kaine

Kate Zernike's profile of Virginia's Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine, "Charismatic Governor Rises to the Short List," is yet another Times' article pushing the religious bona fides of the Democratic party (Kaine is a Catholic). It's also the latest in what will probably be a long list of flattering pieces on potential Obama vice presidential running mates.

Zernike does wonder whether Kaine's resume is too thin to help Obama in November, but the overall tone is warm. She led off with an anecdote showing Kaine in a brave, almost heroic light:

The turning point in Tim Kaine's campaign for Virginia governor in 2005 was an advertisement by his opponent featuring a father whose son had been murdered by a man Mr. Kaine represented on death row.

Gov. Tim Kaine, left, and Senator Jim Webb, both Virginia Democrats, flanked Senator Barack Obama at a rally in June.

"Tim Kaine says that Adolf Hitler doesn't qualify for the death penalty," said the outraged father. "The people of Virginia are entitled to know just what Tim Kaine is and what he stands for."

Mr. Kaine took the opportunity to tell them. Looking directly into the camera, he said: "My faith teaches life is sacred. That's why I personally oppose the death penalty."

But, he added, "As governor, I'll carry out death sentences handed down by Virginia juries, because that's the law."

And how exactly does Barack Obama, who by one ranking had the most liberal voting record of any senator in 2007, "elude ideological labels"?

While running mates typically complement the presidential candidate, Mr. Kaine, 50, more replicates Mr. Obama. He is an inspiring speaker, a Harvard-trained lawyer who spurned corporate work for civil rights. He eludes ideological labels - a Roman Catholic, he opposes both the death penalty and abortion, yet has allowed several executions during his tenure as governor and says he does not think abortion should be criminalized. He describes himself as pragmatic, not partisan - a bridge builder.....To his supporters, though, his authenticity matters more than his accomplishments. And Democratic strategists say that Mr. Kaine's appeal to Mr. Obama is largely based on the personal chemistry between them.

Broad shouldered, with an easy smile, Mr. Kaine seems to understand intuitively how to connect to an audience. At rallies, he mixes the booming encouragement of a high school coach with the nodding affirmation of a preacher (in encouraging Texas Democrats to turn their state blue, he says: "If Virginia can do it, I know Texas can do it - I KNOW Texas can do it!")

The fawning proceeded:

Friends describe Mr. Kaine as self-assured, but unpretentious.

"He's just Tim, at church," said Barbara Williford, who met the Kaines at St. Elizabeth's in 1984 and is godmother to the youngest of their three children. "People say 'governor' and he looks and says, 'Who's here?' because he's not expecting that."