Nervous Kaine, Victorious Herring
Gov. Tim Kaine didn't look or sound much like himself during his debut on the national stage after the president's State of the Union address. The governor, usually a confident and graceful speaker who ad libs with impressive control and sweep, seemed nervous and spoke painfully slowly at first.
But as his Democratic response to the State of the Union moved along, Kaine's pacing returned to a more normal and confident level, and he settled into what was a fairly effective version of what are almost always lame attempts to counter the grandeur and power of SOTU.
Kaine faced an impossible job: Be respectful of the president, cognizant of the essential optimism of the modern-day State of the Union form, yet present a distinctive alternative. The governor, standing in front of a fireplace in the Executive Mansion in Richmond, kept promising that the Dems have "a better way," but only rarely did he say what that way is, other than a vague utopia in which both sides work together.
But Kaine capitalized on Bush's decision to devote more than half his speech to Iraq and a war that many Americans question. The governor didn't bother to get into many of the reasons why the war is not going well; rather, he focused on the overall issue of this administration's competence, which he found lacking from the response to Hurricane Katrina to the war and on through issues domestic and foreign.
All of which is just fine, except that if there is a Democratic vision of an alternative approach to national security, we didn't get to hear about it. And presenting the Dems as the competent, fiscally responsible alternative to profligate Republican spending is a fun twist on the parties' stereotypical roles, but it only works as rhetoric if it's accompanied by specifics pointing to how the Dems would economize.
That said, Kaine offered those Americans who were still hungry for more politics after an hour-plus of the president with a comforting first look at a Democratic Southern governor, which is, of course, the only recipe for White House victory that the Dems have seen since John Kennedy in 1960.
Click the screen below to watch Kaine's Democratic response:
Speaking of victorious Democrats, the other big story in Virginia is another powerful sign of a Democratic resurgence in, of all places, the conservative outer suburbs of the Washington area. In Loudoun County tonight, Democrat Mark Herring handily defeated Republican Mick Staton in a special election to succeed Sen. Bill Mims, who has left the state Senate to become Virginia's deputy attorney general.
Herring's strong win comes in a part of Loudoun that unexpectedly supported Kaine and defeated longtime Delegate Dick Black (Staton's father in law) last November. The increasingly clear message is that among the many thousands of new resident of Loudoun, there is a majority that either leans Democratic or holds independent views and favors curbs on development and has little patience for kneejerk, hard-right stands on social issues. Herring took every single precinct in the district, which bodes well for Kaine's effort to ride herd on Richmond Republicans on questions of growth, transportation and education.
Virginia politics get more intriguing by the day.
By Marc Fisher |
January 31, 2006; 10:53 PM ET
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