Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine isn't the head of the Democratic National Committee any more, but he's still defending President Obama -- something 2009 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Creigh Deeds often avoided.
Deeds lost the 2009 race to now-Gov. Bob McDonnell 59 percent-41 percent, and distanced himself from the president's then-proposed health care reform measure during the campaign. He also refused to call himself an "Obama Democrat," even though Obama campaigned for him. He came up well short for several reasons, including a superior opponent and lack of Democratic enthusiasm for his campaign. Shortly after Deeds lost to McDonnell, Kaine said in a post-election assessment that Deeds focused on winning independents assuming Democrats were already locked down.
While Republicans this cycle will relentlessly work to tie Kaine to the president, a recent Washington Post poll indicated voters were nearly split when responding to the question of whether Obama would be a factor in their Senate race vote. Virginia is once again likely to be a presidential battleground, and with the likely prospect of very few crossover votes between Obama and former Sen. George Allen (if Allen wins the GOP nod), the electoral fates of Kaine and Obama in Virginia could be very similar.
Kaine has recently defended Obama on Israel, energy and federal spending. His campaign spokesperson, Brandi Hoffine told the Washington Examiner that given a choice between Rep. Paul Ryan's, R-Wis., budget proposal and Obama's plan, he would support the president's plan. The Senate recently rejected both plans; Obama's was voted down 97-0. Hoffine also told the paper that Kaine is "extremely interested in seeing what the bipartisan coalition lead by Senator [Mark] Warner puts forward."
On Israel, Kaine told Hotline On Call
after his May 21 speech to Prince William County Democrats that the main role of the United States is "making sure that the discussion between Israel and Palestine around boundaries is going forward in good faith. We're not ones to do the ultimate outcome and the president was very careful about that."
"He didn't say that the boundaries should be the '67 lines," Kaine added. "He said, look, the '67 lines were a starting point and then there's all kinds of discussions from there. That's not going to be the end point. The end point is going to be up to the Palestinians and the Israelis to decide. But there's no better ally that the United States has than Israel."
Kaine also cited GOP comments
defending Obama's policy further, specifically mentioning Sen. Lindsey Graham
, R-S.C. Kaine didn't mention that Graham also had two points of contention with Obama's speech on Israel.
"I think, you know, Lindsey Graham and other Republicans said that the president laid a pretty good, you know, plan or a good framework for discussion," Kaine said. "The discussion is obviously [for] the Israelis and Palestinians and we're going to do all we can to facilitate, but the U.S. goals have not been different since the Oslo accords and nothing, the president didn't say anything different from what President Bush
Kaine continued backing the president's approach to Israel, explaining that he thought "the U.S. has a policy that they've stated in word but they haven't had a president who's willing to push to make it happen. And I think the president is taking the view, if this is our policy, let's work really hard to make it happen."
The former Richmond mayor and lt. gov. also offered general praise for Obama during his May 21 speech in Northern Virginia, telling Democrats gathered at a VFW hall in Dale City that "the president is counting on us."
"The pressure is on us. It is on us to produce for a president that's doing a spectacular job in one of the most difficult circumstances that any president has had since the 1930s," Kaine said during the local county committee's annual Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner.
Obama and Kaine became close friends after Kaine endorsed Obama's presidential run once Sen. Mark Warner
, D-Va., announced he would not run, becoming the first statewide Democrat outside of Illinois to do so. However, their records as executives diverge in offshore exploration for energy, specifically natural gas.
The Obama administration has been hesitant to allow exploratory drilling off of Virginia's coast but changed
course earlier this month.
Kaine used the issue to contrast his gubernatorial record with that of Allen, a proponent of expanded drilling who has called out
Kaine for sharing points of view with Obama on energy.
"Well, you know, it wasn't George Allen that put into state law an openness to offshore, exploratory drilling for gas. It was me. In 2006, I worked with the legislature to do that and I am open to it. And I'm glad to see that the president has moved to more openness to exploratory drilling for gas off the Atlantic coast," said Kaine. "His recent position that he announced 10 days ago or so is exactly where the Virginia position has been since we put that into state law in 2006."
"Try as he might to change his record - it is clear Tim Kaine has repeatedly stood in the way of Virginia's energy independence," Allen said in a statement to Hotline On Call
. "Tim Kaine has taken several positions that would cause Virginia families to pay higher energy bills."
What Kaine didn't
mention was that in 2006, he also vetoed
part of a bill from the Republican-controlled state legislature that would have requested the federal government to permit offshore drilling for oil off the coast of Virginia. He did, however, favor
exploratory drilling for natural gas back then.
For Kaine, maximizing Democratic turnout and support tops his general election to-do list.
"I think you have to make sure your own voters feel excited, first, and then you have to win independents," said Kaine.