Tim Kaine plays the harmonica for a packed house at the Floyd Country Store during a campaign event last month in Floyd, Va.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - With an address to the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine enthusiastically embraced President Barack Obama's agenda and record - the same one that Republicans have worked for more than a year to connect him with.
"We have got to move forward," Kaine told the delegate-packed convention hall. "Because while we've made progress, we still have a long way to go. And we'll only get there if we elect leaders who put results over ideology. I support President Obama because he's that kind of a leader."
Kaine is running against fellow former Gov. George Allen (R) for the seat of retiring Sen. Jim Webb (D) in a state vital to both parties' hopes of winning the White House and the Senate majority.
Allen, running for the seat he lost in 2006, has said on the campaign trail that Kaine would be a "rubber-stamp" for the president, the National Republican Senatorial Committee refers to Kaine as Obama's "No. 1 cheerleader," and GOP-aligned outside groups such as Crossroads GPS have run ads highlighting Kaine's support for the 2009 stimulus package.
After working under the president for more than a year as chairman of the Democratic National Committee and as the first governor outside Illinois to endorse Obama's first bid for president, separating himself from the president was always an unlikely path for Kaine. Indeed, he has appeared with Obama several times on the campaign trail this year, including last week in the college town of Charlottesville.
Speaking with reporters after the Virginia delegation breakfast on Tuesday at a hotel near the Charlotte airport, Kaine said that unlike Allen, he will work with the president next year whether it's Obama or Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
"I support the president, and I think Virginians want the president to succeed," Kaine said. "When my opponent started to put these billboards up, 'Tim Kaine, Obama's Senator, Not Virginia's,' I looked at it and thought, 'Wow, is it really anti-Virginian to support the president of the United States?'"
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told Roll Call after the breakfast that it was a faulty assumption by the GOP that Kaine's ties to Obama and the DNC were a liability. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's position as chairman of the Republican Governors Association has hardly hurt his approval ratings, and Obama has actually led in Virginia polling all year, he said.
"So actually Obama is an asset, not a liability," Connolly said. "Every time they remind people of that association, I think it helps Tim Kaine."