US Senate race in Virginia shaping up as national battleground
In Virginia's US Senate race, Democrat Tim Kaine isn't Barack Obama, and Republican George Allen isn't Mitt Romney or the House GOP leadership. But you wouldn't know it from the special-interest ads pouring into this key battleground state.
(Page 4 of 4)
“There’s a sort of double effect of these issues,” Kaine says. Not only do they distract from key economic problems, “but they’re also the issues most likely to divide us at a time when most Virginians strongly feel like we need to do more unifying than division," he adds.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
On the other hand, the Allen camp frequently refers to “Chairman Kaine” in a bid to tie him directly to his tenure as the head of the Democratic National Committee during the passage of health-care reform, among other issues. Allen’s attack on the “chairman” also attempts to cleave Kaine from his longtime friend and political mentor, US Sen. Mark Warner (D) of Virginia. A former Virginia governor, Senator Warner is a popular figure in the commonwealth for his mix of fiscal conservatism, business bona fides, and center-left political perspective.
"[Kaine] had a job where his duty was to defend anything and everything that the Democrats in Washington produced as an idea or a policy, and you can be certain that Republicans are going to deal with that," he adds.
Of course, there’s another side to both stories. In Allen’s case, it’s true that government spending went up, while Kaine can consistently point to trimming state outlays. But Allen’s tenure in the governor’s mansion was “extraordinary,” as Holsworth put it, for its policy achievements, including parole and welfare reforms and statewide education exams.
But “because he governed in good times, he spent a lot,” Holsworth notes. Kaine, who faced a massive national economic downturn during his governorship, had no such luxury.
“I don’t think this has anything to do with the respective ideological stances of these two. If you’re governor and the state’s taking in money, you spend it, and if its not taking in money you’re constitutionally bound to balance the budget – so you cut,” Holsworth says.
In Kaine’s case, his temperament and political leanings are closer to Senator Warner’s than they are to Pelosi’s. Kaine is personally anti-abortion, for example, and his defense of the 201o federal health-care law is far short of an ideological tirade. He argues that popular provisions deserve to be protected, such as free preventative care for seniors, the end of insurance companies denying patients coverage for preexisting conditions, and the ability for young Americans to stay on their parents' health-care insurance policy until age 26.
“I recognize that it’s controversial. In Virginia, my sense is that it’s about even between people who would like to repeal and people who would like to keep it in place and make it better,” Kaine says. “If you ask people, ‘What do you think, should we kick kids off their family insurance policy in that 21- to 26-year-old age range?’ You go through those ... provisions that are already affecting the everyday lives of Americans, and people don’t want to get rid of them.”
But in a year when the national debate weighs so heavily on Virginia’s Senate race, both campaigns will need all the help they can get.
“If you see what my résumé is, and you understand my positions, and I’m still under 50 percent, then you’ve got to have people vote against your opponent to get over 50,” says Robert Denton, a professor at Virginia Tech specializing in political communications. “Both of them are in that situation. They’ve got to have a segment of the public vote against the other person.”