New Dem tandem: Bam-Kath tag-team?

Kansas guv’s magic: Blue State leader
in Red State land to propel Obama win

IN THE VEEP SHORTLIST. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, one of those highly considered as Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s potential running mate for the November presidential polls, will perhaps become the first woman ever in the last two dozen years to overturn the loss of Geraldine Ferraro, the controversial surrogate of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s troubled campaign, since the Democratic Party nominated her to capture the U.S. vice presidency way back in the 1984 elections.
Geraldine in ’84 for veep, but no Hillary for prez in ’08;
partymates see Kathleen as rising star next to Barack
TOPEKA – Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a two-term Democrat in a mostly Republican state, finds it “surreal” to hear her name mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate on a ticket with Barack Obama.
But others watching the 59-year-old governor and surrogate campaigner for the Illinois senator say her political savvy, moderate Midwestern sensibilities and ability to work across party lines make her a good fit for the Democratic front-runner.
“I think she would complement the ticket very well,” said Nathan Daschle, executive director of the Democratic Governors’ Association, which made Sebelius its first female chairman last year. “She’s been elected twice by a state that is a very strong Republican state and she’s done it by appealing to conservatives, to progressives and moderates.”
Sebelius says she finds it all a bit much.
“It’s flattering and a little … surreal to have somebody talk about those sorts of ideas,” she told Reuters. “I don’t really think about it. That is not where my focus is.”
Some say Sebelius is a long-shot to share the ticket because Kansas has little political clout on the national stage. Sebelius says Obama’s team has made no such overtures.
“What he will have is an array of wonderful choices,” she says. “There will be a very deliberate process looking at the best possible partner for the future.”
The vice presidency may seem like an odd job for a woman who says she got into politics 21 years ago because she wanted more time with her children than she had as head of the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association.
‘Family friendly’
“My kids were 2 and 5 and I was working 60 to 70 hours a week,” Sebelius recounted in an interview. “I wanted to move into a very part-time job where I could be in the legislature and have summers off and spend a lot more time with my kids. It was more a job that was family friendly.”
Those days are long past. Sebelius, who grew up in politics as the daughter of Ohio Gov. John Gilligan, has become increasingly active nationally. In January, she delivered the Democratic response to President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address.
She has been working overtime to campaign on Obama’s behalf. The two became allies when Obama, whose mother grew up in Kansas, helped with Sebelius’ re-election in 2006.
Sebelius said aligning with Obama over Hillary Clinton, who would be the first female U.S. president, was “not the easiest call” but was the “only logical choice.”
Governing more than five years with a Republican-controlled state Legislature has left Kansas’ 44th governor with an appreciation for politicians who can work across party lines.
She has had her share of partisan fights. Her veto of a popular concealed handgun law was overridden, and she unsuccessfully opposed a measure that made same-sex marriage unconstitutional in the state.
Still, supporters say Sebelius’ ability to support policies that favor Kansans generally over Democrats specifically has helped spur job growth and strengthen public education.
“I see in (Obama) the capacity to really reach across party lines and get people together, where people see themselves as Americans once again and not Democrats and Republicans,” she said.
There also is talk that Sebelius could go after Republican Sam Brownback’s U.S. Senate seat in 2010. That would be no easy feat as Kansas has sent only Republicans to the U.S. Senate since 1939 but Sebelius’ chances are seen as good.
“Her star is rising across the country,” said David Procter, director of Kansas State University’s Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy. “That speaks pretty highly of her political abilities.”
DEMOCRATIC presidential candidate Barack Obama acknowledges the crowd with Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius after she formally endorsed him during a rally in El Dorado, Kansas on January 29, 2008.

Jason Reed/REUTERS

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