Virginia has elected Democrat Tim Kaine as its governor. It looks like he will defeat Republican Jerry Kilgore by about 5 percentage points. The break-away Republican candidate gained less than 3 percent of the vote, and thus was not a factor.
The Democrats will trumpet this win as evidence that they are on the comeback trail. They may very well be on that trail, but this race provides no good evidence of it. Kaine won because Democratic governor Mark Warner is extraordinarily popular (his approval rating is around 70 percent). There are no national implications here, unless the Dems are wise enough to run Warner for president in 2008, and they aren’t. Recall too that Warner was elected governor in 2001 at a time when President Bush’s popularity was at an all time high. And the Dems elected two governors in Virginia during the Reagan years. This race has never been tied to, or reflective of, national politics.
UPDATE: The news from Virginia isn’t all bad. My least favorite Virginia Democrat, Leslie Byrne, has lost the race for Lt. Governor. The race for Attorney General is too close to call, but the Republican leads by about 8,000 votes. If that leads holds, the Republicans will have picked up a state-wide seat, thus improving on their 2001 performance. Kaine’s 2005 performance appears mirror Warner’s performance in 2001, with the third party candidacy this year complicating the comparison a little.