Candidates for Virginia Governor Make Final Push
Gov. Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, questioned the character of Republican Bob McDonnell, who has a strong lead in the polls. Kaine is barred by Virginia's Constitution from seeking re- election.
Meanwhile, McDonnell paid little attention to Kaine's slight as he and two fellow Republicans on the statewide ticket jetted to seven separate Monday rallies. Polls the past week showed McDonnell ahead by 11 to 18 percentage points, and his ticketmates also leading by solid margins, fueling hopes of a GOP sweep one year after Democrats dominated the state in the presidential race.
This election and another race for governor in New Jersey are being watched as possible referendums on the policies of President Barack Obama - and omens for Democrats who control Congress in the 2010 midterm elections.
Kaine told a subdued crowd of about 200 at Virginia Commonwealth University that Republicans want to mask McDonnell's rigidly conservative record and portray himself as a moderate.
"They're trying to re-create their whole record and say that they've had this conversion experience on the road to Election Day," Kaine said.
"You can tell what someone will do by what he has done. You can tell somebody's character by whether he's willing to stand by you," Kaine said. "When you vote it's really important to vote on character."
Kaine said he was not referring solely to the master's thesis that McDonnell, at age 34, wrote in 1989 disparaging women, gays and unmarried "cohabitators."
He cited McDonnell's opposition to the state's restaurant smoking ban, due to take effect Dec. 1 and a vote he took as a legislator against a resolution urging equal pay for women.
A spokesman for the McDonnell campaign responded by criticizing Kaine's dual roles as governor and DNC chairman.
"Nice of the DNC chairman to fly into Virginia today," Tucker Martin said. "If he'd been here more over the past six months, he'd know that Virginians have rejected these kinds of harsh personal attacks in favor of Bob McDonnell's positive agenda for jobs, schools and roads."
In an evening rally, McDonnell recited the stump speech he has given for months and never mentioned Kaine's comments in addressing 300 jubilant Republicans who turned out in a hangar at Richmond International Airport.
But ticketmate Bill Bolling, seeking re-election as lieutenant governor, contrasted Wednesday's optimism with several years of mournful election-eve gatherings.
"Everywhere we go, the crowds are two times, three times bigger than we've ever seen before. I think there are a couple of reasons for that. No. 1 is we're tired of losing and we're ready to win again," Bolling said.
The last time a Republican won a contested, top-of-the-ticket statewide election in Virginia was 2000, when George Allen unseated Democratic Sen. Chuck Robb.