"Good Copy" on Kaine: Rough Water Ahead
Sunday, July 24, 2005 :::
I suspected Jeff wasn't too excited by the poll numbers showing Kaine with the headline lead. "Statistically insignificant" was the dead give-away. Schapiro devotes his Sunday sermon to telling us why all may not be beer and skittles for the Lt. Governor:
Problem No. 1: Kaine has yet to move the campaign to his turf...instead of basking in the glow of the popular Governor, Kaine is talking, somewhat defensively, about abortion, capital punishment, and guns -- Republican issues.
Given the poll results, showing most Virginians don't really care (or at least tell the nice pollster on the phone that they don't care) about these matters, Jeff would seem to have a point. But the same poll shows folks are moving toward Kaine anyway.
Still, Jeff doesn't seem to be buying the results:
With the straight-faced earnestness one might expect from the native Midwesterner he is, the Minnesota-born, Missouri-educated Kaine says, a la John Kerry, that it is perfectly okay to be a pro-life Catholic and to promise to uphold the death penalty and abortion rights.
AND A PLEDGE to resist additional restrictions on firearms rings somewhat hollow coming from someone who as a member of the Richmond City Council proposed using tax dollars to send a delegation to an anti-gun rally in Washington. What's next? A TV commercial of Kaine duck-hunting?
Here comes another slap:
Problem No. 2: By fighting the election on Republican terrain, Kaine allows Kilgore, a former Attorney General, to do what the GOP does best: draw sharp, bright lines on issues of the heart, the stuff that seems to matter most in our polarized culture. Keeping the focus on the ideas that invigorate his conservative base allows Kilgore to compensate for his weaknesses: a standoffishness, a seeming dependence on a script, a wooden and uncaptivating speaking style.
But Jeff, I thought the poll showed folks didn't really warm to "issues of the heart." Was that result wrong...I mean, you wrote up the analysis, you tell me. It seems folks were telling the pollsters that they weren't all jazzed-up by God, guns, gays and abortion. Ah, I get it. You also noted that these issues play to the GOP base. And if that base, in a Republican state, gets sufficiently motivated to vote in big numbers, the race is over. At least I think that's what is behind your point. But there's more:
Problem No. 3: State Senator Russell Potts of Winchester, the independent candidate for Governor, is exposing Kaine's liberal flank.
I thought Russ was a bigger threat to Kilgore...siphoning off those "independent" votes he needs, needs, I tell you, to win in November.
THANKS TO Potts, Kaine may find himself at odds with voters ordinarily inclined to support Democrats: liberals, gays, civil rights activists. And for a while there, it looked as if Potts would mostly drain Republican votes from Kilgore.
Indeed, Potts seemed to pull middle-of-the-road Republicans who view Kilgore as to the right of reason. But now Potts is pivoting left, doing his shtick for Democratic audiences, including the National Organization for Women and Democracy for America, a political-action committee started by Howard Dean.
Oh, I see. Russ is only beginning his race to the left...and hard. Will that make a difference? I don't think my friends on the left (at least those outside of newsrooms) will fall for Russ's charms. I could be very wrong. But time will tell. And now for the biggest problem Jeff sees on Kaine's horizon:
Problem No. 4: Where's Warner? The departing Governor is supposed to be talking up Kaine as his logical heir. But Warner, just back from Iowa, seems more intoxicated by his presidential boomlet than interested in building a gubernatorial dynasty.
Maybe they just don't like each other, eh, Jeff? Schapiro notes that Warner has not completely stiff-armed Kaine, but he ends the piece on this note:
But the election remains at least partially a referendum on Warner and his tax-raising legacy. So it falls to Warner to defend it, to forcefully advocate the election of the fellow who would protect it and to engage the guy who might dismantle it.
When Warner does -- if he does -- maybe Kaine can catch the tailwind that might fade in the grim summer heat.
So without Warner, Kaine's boomlet becomes a blip...a brief, happy interval when the prize seemed within reach. This sounds about right. The real question, the great problem, facing Kaine is what will Mark Warner do?
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 7/24/2005