George Allen and Tim Kaine faced off in their first debate of the Virginia Senate race yesterday, and set the stage for a nasty fight over the 334 days between now and the general election. President Obama’s name came up often -- and yes, so did “macaca.”
RealClearPolitics says in just “the first few minutes of the debate,” Allen portrayed Kaine “as a President Obama proxy while Kaine labeled his opponent a Washington politician who supported George W. Bush’s policies that led, Kaine said, to the recession.” Putting aside Kaine’s service as governor, Allen referred to Kaine as “Chairman” -- a reference to Kaine’s past leadership of the Democratic National Committee -- while Kaine “termed Allen’s Senate bid as a ‘re-election campaign.’”
When Kaine was asked to comment on Allen’s use of the term “macaca” to refer to 2006 Jim Webb campaign worker S.R. Sidarth, Kaine was blunt: “There was no mistake about what those words meant. The implication was that this young student was less of an American than George or you and me. For whatever reason he said it, it is part of the divisive politics we’ve got to put behind us.” The Washington Times says Kaine accused Allen “of employing divisive and ‘bullying’ rhetoric against his opponents in the sharpest jab of a caustic first debate.”
The Washington Post says Obama “came up countless times during the debate. Although some Democrats have tried to distance themselves from Obama, Kaine has not. Urged by Obama to run, Kaine noted several times that the president had saved the U.S. auto industry and taken down Osama bin Laden.” Kaine even chided Allen for a passing reference to “the likes of President Obama.” Though Obama carried Virginia in 2008, his approval rating in the state now hovers around 40 percent.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch says “the gloves came off early and often” as the debate turned into “a comparison between Bush-era and Obama-era policies.” Allen said, “On every significant issue, Tim has sided with President Obama rather than the people of Virginia.” The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star says Kaine countered by “repeatedly accused Allen of having supported, during his previous single term in the U.S. Senate, policies and spending that led to the current federal debt problem. He noted the Republican’s vote for the ‘Bush tax cuts.’”
Politico says Kaine tried to cast Allen as the “incumbent” as Allen tries to take back the seat he lost in 2006, “assailing Allen for what he dubbed as fiscally irresponsible spending votes during the Bush administration that paved the way toward the current economic malaise.”
The Hill says it was “a testy start” in the “high-stakes” race. Both Allen and Kaine “came off as seasoned debaters, though Allen had more stumbles. He dodged a direct answer when Kaine asked him why he’d voted to increase his own pay, failed to provide the rate for his proposed national flat tax and fumbled through an explanation of how his ‘personhood amendment’ -- which would define life as beginning at conception -- would not ban such contraceptives as the morning-after pill.” And Roll Call reports that after Allen “declined to say whether he would join Sen. Mark Warner on the Senate’s bipartisan ‘gang of six,’ Kaine said Allen ‘wouldn’t do it’ because he signed Grover Norquist’s tax pledge.”
The Post’s Robert McCartney says Kaine stood by Obama despite his “sliding popularity.” Allen tried “to discredit Kaine by linking him to Obama.” It was “a bit of a surprise -- and frankly refreshing -- to see Kaine defend the president’s record without hesitation. He didn’t go out of his way to bring up Obama. But he also didn’t waffle or try to distance himself from the president’s policies.” The Virginia Gentleman blog says Kaine “unstintingly defended the unpopular Obama, and he seemed to relish it.”
Bob Gibson of the University of Virginia, one of the moderators, told WAMU afterward, “It was very early, and it allowed them both opportunities to draw some contrasts. Allen used the opportunity to attach Gov. Kaine to the Obama Administration on healthcare, spending and taxation. Gov. Kaine used it to go after Allen’s record in the Senate on spending.”
Two uninvited Republican candidates, Tim Donner and Jamie Radtke, panned Allen’s performance, according to Bearing Drift. Radtke said, “George Allen has no credibility barking conservative themes, when even liberal Democrats like Tim Kaine can so easily prove his hypocrisy by pointing to Allen’s record of trillions in deficit spending, supporting massive expansions in the size and scope of government, and backing government subsidies to some corporate interests.” Donner agreed, asking, “If the Democrat in this race can position himself to the right of George Allen on the issue of runaway spending and the size and scope of government, what hope is there of winning this US Senate seat?”
* Michael Steele, former Maryland LG and Republican National Committee chairman, turned up at an event for GOP Senate hopeful Dan Bongino in Savage Mill last night, the Savage-Guilford Patch reports. Bongino hopes to take on Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, the man who beat Steele in 2006.
* The Baltimore Sun reports Milad Pooran, a critical care physician who served as a combat medic in Iraq, entered the Maryland Sixth District congressional race Wednesday. The 34-year-old Democrat said, “The Sixth District has been underrepresented for two decades.” He will face state Sen. Rob Garagiola and former Montgomery County Council member Duchy Trachtenberg in the April primary.
* LGBT groups are “not surprisingly” upset by Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli’s run for governor, Metro Weekly reports. Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish said, “I find it disappointing. He has not been a friend to the LGBT community and has taken what we feel are actions to deny whatever rights we have been trying to achieve.”
* The Sun says Joe Steffen, Bob Ehrlich’s “longtime political enforcer,” thinks Paul Schurick’s conviction on election fraud charges is just. Steffen said the robocall scheme “was a fraudulent attempt to suppress the black vote as the ‘infamous, racist Schurick Doctrine,’ which he contended will be a millstone around the necks of Maryland Republicans for many years in their attempts to appeal to African-Americans.”