What promises to be one of the nation’s most closely watched Senate campaigns kicks off today in earnest when George Allen and Tim Kaine debate this afternoon in Richmond.
While neither man has secured his party’s nomination, both are expected to do so, and the 90-minute confrontation could preview some of the themes Virginians will be exposed to over the next 11 months.
Kaine’s campaign “left open the option Tuesday of using the infamous ‘Macaca’ moment” against Allen during the campaign. In a conference call with reporters, Kaine adviser Mo Elleithee said, “Anything in any candidate’s record is fair game for discussion -- anything they’ve said or done.”
But today’s face-off is more likely to deal with contrasts on policy. Wesley Hester of the Richmond Times-Dispatch says
the debate “might be a battle over which set of ‘failed policies’ failed harder.” According to advisers to each campaign, Allen “will take aim at Kaine’s former role as Democratic National Committee chairman in which he touted President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan, healthcare reform bill and other legislation considered disastrous by Republicans,” while Kaine “will go after Allen’s record as a U.S. Senator, contrasting it with his own record as governor.”
WAMU’s Brian Naylor says
the election is “likely to revolve around two key issues: President Obama and the economy.” The Washington Examiner writes
that the “pair of skilled, season politicians will waste little time digging into the main issue at hand, the ailing economy, with vastly different takes on who is to blame for the prolonged high unemployment and historic deficits.”
But Elleithee told reporters that simply trying to tie Kaine to Obama won’t work for the GOP. “If that’s how they want to continue to spend their time and how they want to continue to spend their money, I say God bless ‘em,” he said.
Conservative blogger D.J. Spiker agrees, writing at Bearing Drift
that Kaine’s administration “failed on virtually every one of their revenue projections” and “tried to saddle Virginia with a $4.4 billion tax increase as he slunk out of Richmond in abject defeat,” but that the Allen campaign seems uninterested in raising these issues.
* The Washington Examiner reports
Mitt Romney will be in Richmond Thursday for a fundraiser. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling “serves as chairman of Romney’s Virginia campaign and will be at the fundraiser.” The Examiner says, “With Bolling’s campaign operation at his disposal, the former Massachusetts governor’s presence in Virginia far outpaces the rest of the Republican presidential field and is second only to President Obama.”
* In the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jeff Schapiro writes
that while Bolling “has every reason to be furious” with AG Ken Cuccinelli, “victimhood is not a strategy,” and complaining that Cuccinelli is failing to wait his turn to run for governor won’t get Bolling far.
* The Charlottesville Daily Progress reports
Del. Rob Bell officially jumped into the GOP race for Virginia AG Tuesday, “highlighting his history as a prosecutor in Orange County as he billed himself as a ‘conservative and a crime fighter.’” The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot writes
, “Announcing two years ahead of time may sound early, but consider this: the Albemarle County Republican isn’t even the first member of his party to reveal his pursuit of that office,” since state Sen. Mark Obenshain is already in the GOP race.
* The Washington Post reports
Gov. Martin O’Malley was elected to a second term as head of the Democratic Governors Association yesterday. The Post says, “It is rare for a governor to serve two terms as DGA chair.” Governors Journal writes
, “The post puts O’Malley, who is thought to have ambitions beyond Maryland, in position to serve as a major national spokesman for the Democratic Party in a presidential election year.”
* WAMU reports
Ward 5 D.C. Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. “was one of the 13 members that unanimously voted in favor of an ethics reform bill” yesterday, but Thomas, “who is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, had little to say during the hearing.”