Tim Kaine thinks the Senate and presidential races in Virginia are as close as most recent polls have shown and conceded his political fate is closely tied to the performance of his good friend in the White House.
Kaine spoke with reporters today in Washington, D.C., at a breakfast hosted by the Democratic-leaning think tank Third Way, three days after rallying a Richmond crowd to help kick off President Barack Obama's re-election campaign. The Senate candidate and former Virginia governor said there will undoubtedly be a “strong linkage” in the results of the presidential race and Kaine’s expected matchup with Republican George Allen.
“There are folks who like me a little bit better because of my connection with the president, there are folks who like me a little bit less,” Kaine said. “I think that all washes out.”
Kaine and Allen are well-known entities in the state, but both have also played key roles on the national stage, with Kaine serving two years as chairman of the Democratic National Committee under Obama and Allen serving as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 2004 cycle. Kaine’s ties to Obama date back to Kaine's gubernatorial bid in 2005. While Allen and national Republicans have continued to highlight that relationship, Kaine has not shied away from it.
“The presidential race is going to have a center-of-gravity effect on both George’s campaign and mine,” Kaine said. “But because people know both of us so well, there is some separation in folks’ minds to some degree.”
Kaine was asked whether he supports gay marriage, an issue in the headlines following Vice President Joseph Biden’s comments Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that seemed to indicate a shift in the administration’s policy stance. Obama advisers have denied that’s the case. Either way, Kaine’s answer sounded similar to Biden’s.
He did not endorse gay marriage but said he supports the legal argument that all couples should be treated equally. “The underlying issue is should committed couples have the same legal rights and responsibilities,” Kaine said. “And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes.”
On Allen, Kaine said he will “absolutely” bring up the Republican’s record on women’s issues and said his own record on fiscal discipline is far better than Allen’s.
“Look at when we were serving at the same time with the same economy,” Kaine said of 2001-2007, when Allen was Senator and Kaine was lieutenant governor and governor. “I, in those years, performed very dramatic surgery on the state budget, cut an $80 billion budget by $5 billion, left the state budget smaller. George during those years was a proud participant in decisions that turned the biggest surplus in the history of the United States into the biggest deficit.”
Regarding Kaine's mention of women's issues, an Allen campaign spokeswoman said, "It's no wonder Tim Kaine is turning to Washington-style manufactured fights rather than running on his own record."
"George Allen welcomes the stark contrast with his own record for job creation, fewer taxes and regulations, and a Balanced Budget Amendment," the spokeswoman, Emily Davis, said in a statement.
Virginia has proved to have swing potential in recent cycles, as Democrats had a good run in state and federal races from 2005 to 2008 and Republicans in 2009 and 2010. Kaine said he’s glad to be running in a presidential cycle, when turnout will be much higher, but the focus remains on the swing voters that both parties have an opportunity to persuade.
“Both sides are going to make their case to the independents,” Kaine said. “There used to be a pretty significant edge in Virginia of people who would self-identify as R over D, but it’s pretty even now. But the independent group is the biggest — it’s about 40 percent.”