Ratcheting up the liberalism

Tuesday is election day in Virginia. The Democratic candidate, Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, seems to have the edge over Republican Jerry Kilgore and, although the election is considered too close to call, I think Kaine probably will win. He has several substantial advantages. The biggest is the popularity of moderate Democratic governor Mark Warner whose approval is something like 70 percent. Another is the candidacy of a break-away Republican who has about 4 percent support in the polls. Third, Kilgore is perceived to have run an extremely negative campaign, and has been blasted for this (rightly or wrongly) by a number of Virginia newspapers. On the other hand, the Kaine campaign has been sanctioned for improper practices by the Virginia board of elections. It’s also possible that President Bush is a drag on the Kilgore candidacy, although I haven’t seen any real evidence of this.

Kilgore’s one advantage, and it’s a big one, is that he’s a Republican. As the Washington Post points out, Virginia Republicans tend to close well because Virginia voters have a way of turning out and “coming home” on election day.

Even so, Virginia has elected its share of Democratic governors in modern times. Beginning in the mid 1980s, it elected three in a row, Chuck Robb, Gerald Baliles, and Douglas Wilder. Robb was a moderate to conservative Democrat. His successors were increasingly less conservative (Baliles was an excellent governor, though). I think we may see a repeat. Warner seems like a genuine moderate. Kaine seems like a liberal masquerading as a moderate. If (as I expect) the Dems slip him past the voters, we may well see a more liberal candidate the next time, but there are definite limits on the amount of liberalism Virginians will accept.

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