The Death of the "Virginia Democrat?"
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's expected appointment as the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee will likely undermine the Democratic candidates for governor ability to distance themselves from the national party.
Ever since Senator-elect Mark R. Warner (D) ran for governor in 2001, Virginia Democrats have gone out their way to stress that they are different from the national, more liberal, wing of the party. That branding of a "Virginia Democrat" - pro-business, socially moderate - was then used by Kaine during his race for governor in 2005. It also helped Sen. James Webb in 2006.
But now the head of the Virginia Democratic Party will also be in charge of the national committee. When the eventual Democratic nominee for governor takes on Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, the GOP nominee, this fall, they won't be able to position themselves as somehow different than the national party without first distancing themselves from Kaine.
GOP officials in Richmond were gleeful when they heard about Kaine's appointment. "The Mark Warner model is dead," one Richmond-based GOP strategist said.
Democrats argue that it will no longer be a liability for them to be linked to the national party now that Barack Obama, who easily carried Virginia this year, is the titular head of the party.
But Kaine will also be easily attached to the Democratic leadership in Congress, who polls show are unpopular, and other elements of the national party that the governor will have to cater to, including national liberal bloggers, labor unions, environmentalists and other elements of the party base. And when voters go the polls this November, the election will no longer just be a partial referendum on Kaine, the governor, but also on Kaine, the head of the national Democratic party.
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