ABC News’ David Chalian and Sunlen Miller report:
President-elect Barack Obama made a quick appearance at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., this afternoon to announce Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine as the next chairman of the DNC.
At Obama’s first partisan political event since his election, neither he nor Kaine tossed out partisan red meat or offered many words to warm the hearts of the Democratic faithful. In fact, Democratic party interest groups — including labor, pro-choice advocates, gay rights advocates, and all the various constituencies inside the DNC — may have heard a warning sign that a President Obama may not be eager to lead the charge on the ideological battles that lay ahead.
There was no mention of Obama’s 13 million strong email list or how a grassroots movement built around candidate Obama can be transferred to a Democratic Party movement without tarnishing the image of the post-partisan leader for all people President-elect Obama clearly desires to display.
“Tim and I share a philosophy,” Obama said of Kaine. “It’s a pragmatic, progressive philosophy that was at the heart of my campaign and will be at the heart of this administration. It’s a philosophy that measures the strength of an idea not by whether it’s Republican or Democrat, but whether it can actually solve a problem and make a difference in people’s lives.”
Outgoing DNC Chairman Howard Dean was not present at today’s announcement. He was, instead, traveling to America Samoa in his final two weeks as chairman. But Obama and Kaine both paid tribute to his tenure overseeing the party that made historic gains in the last few years.
“Having steered the Democratic Party through two successful elections, Howard deserves enormous credit for helping usher in a new era in Washington,” President-elect Obama said. “And now is the time not only to build on Howard’s record of achievement, but to remake the Democratic Party to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
The president-elect also took care of a little inside baseball when he made sure to praise his incoming Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel for his work in helping win back the House back for Democrats in 2006. There was a very public feud between Emanuel, along with his Senate counterpart Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and DNC Chairman Howard Dean during the 2006 midterm elections about the efficacy of Dean’s 50-state strategy — a plan that had the DNC dedicating precious resources to states where the party had very little chance of getting many Democrats elected.
"For nearly four years, Howard has served our party and our nation as a visionary and effective leader," said Obama. "He launched a 50-state strategy that made Democrats competitive in places they had not been in years, working with my chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, to give Democrats a majority in the House for the first time in over a decade.”
Kaine said he’d continue to call the president-elect “Barack” until inauguration day and that he was honored by the position. Kaine outlined three goals he hopes to achieve as DNC chair: to promote the president’s agenda, carry the “proud banner of a proud party” and “to work to creatively engage citizen in new ways through this party to be active in civic life.”
Kaine will be formally elected chair at the DNC Winter Meeting on Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C.
– Sunlen Miller and David Chalian