Democratic Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, in exclusive comments to the News-Press in Tysons Corner yesterday morning, said that the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, sell off of Merrill Lynch, near failure of AIG and the attendant stock market nosedive has triggered what he called a “reset” of the presidential campaign.
The reaction to the crisis by the presidential candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, echoed in comments they made the last three days, have fundamentally redefined the race, he said. Kaine was appearing at a fundraiser for Democratic Congressional candidate Gerry Connolly.
A staunch supporter of Obama, Kaine said McCain’s comments Monday that “the economy is fundamentally sound” reminded him of the kind of things that President Herbert Hoover said when the Great Depression began to set in.
But Kaine conceded that the presidential race in Virginia remains a “dead heat” at present, a view also shared by a prominent Republican, retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, in comments he made to a joint meeting of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce and Merrifield Business Association Tuesday in Falls Church.
Connolly, current chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, is seeking the Virginia 11th Congressional District seat being vacated by Davis’ decision to not seek an eighth term as the representative from that district.
At their separate events this week, however, both Connolly and Davis said that the 11th District, which covers eastern Fairfax County including much of so-called “Greater Falls Church,” will be key in determining how Virginia goes in the presidential race in November.
Davis said in his luncheon remarks Tuesday that polling indicates Obama is not doing as well in that district as either Kaine or U.S. Sen. James Webb did in their narrow electoral victories in 2005 and 2006, when their overwhelming margins there were key to their statewide results.
Connolly also said yesterday that Obama “has to do better in the 11th District” than he is right now.
But Kaine, in his comments to the News-Press, said that there is evidence that polls “tend to under-represent minority and newly-registered voters,” which is where a lot of Obama support is expected to come from in November.
A victory for Obama in November would turn Virginia “blue,” i.e. in favor of a Democrat, in a presidential election for the first time since 1964. Both Obama and McCain consider the state a vital “battleground” for victory in November, along with states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Colorado.
While Obama opened over 30 campaign offices in Virginia, including three contiguous to Falls Church in the 11th and 8th congressional districts, McCain has opened offices in Arlington, Virginia Beach and Roanoke, and has scheduled a fundraiser that will feature vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin in Tysons Corner on Oct. 13.
Davis, who is a proverbial “lame duck” and will leave office on Jan. 1 to return to the private sector for the first time in 29 years, told the sold-out luncheon audience Tuesday, “It may not look like it in their TV ads, but both presidential candidates are very gifted people.”
“At the end of the day,” he said, “They are both very, very capable. They come from different generations and backgrounds, with different philosophies of how government works.”
Davis, who spent years as a Fairfax Supervisor representing the Mason District and as chair of the Fairfax Board before his election to Congress in 1994, has not ruled out returning to public service at some future point.
He said the presidential candidates “are going to earn it by themselves in the last mile” in the upcoming debates. “It’s not hard to blow it in debates,” he quipped, noting that he, himself, has said “a lot of stupid things” over the years, but that was before the Internet, and therefore did not get a lot of exposure.
Both he, and Connolly yesterday, noted that Gov. Palin’s Alaska has roughly half the population of Fairfax County. But Davis said about McCain’s choice of Palin, “He did what he had to do. He needed some spice, just as Obama selected Sen. Joe Biden because he needed someone with foreign policy experience.”
Connolly’s opponent in the run for the 11th District seat, Keith Fimian, attended the Tuesday luncheon when Davis spoke, but did not sit with Davis and made only brief remarks when all attendees were invited to stand and introduce themselves.
Kaine, who was on Obama’s short list as a vice presidential choice, said he expects to make a lot more appearances on national television between now and Election Day to speak in support of Obama. He’s already made a number of live appearances on “Meet the Press,” and other Sunday morning news shows.