His state voted Democratic in the 2008 presidential contest for the first time in 44 years, he's personally popular with voters, and he's currently the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Yet not once in her November 17 11-paragraph story did Washington Post's Rosalind Helderman raise the notion that Gov. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) might share blame for his party's gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds getting thoroughly trounced in the voting booth 14 days earlier.
Helderman's story, "Democrat Deeds ran without his base, Kaine says," was based on Kaine's recent "meeting with editors and reporters of The Washington Post." Helderman's reporting makes clear, however, that the paper was only interested in dutifully relaying Kaine's spin on the 2009 gubernatorial election, not in challenging any of his claims.
Kaine told the Post that Deeds:
squandered the opportunity to sell his own appealing life story.... Instead, the rural state senator took the advice of campaign consultants who wrongly assumed Deeds's Democratic support was solid and believed he should instead focus on wooing independents by attacking Republican Robert F. McDonnell.
And that makes sense, how? If in hindsight Deeds had trouble energizing his base, how could Kaine expect him to win an election in which he'd have to carry an energized base to the polls while also winning over independents?
But instead of challenging any of Kaine's analysis or asking him if McDonnell's win was a repudiation of the direction Democrats, led by Kaine, were taking Virginia, Helderman simply relayed the outgoing goveror's hand-washing for the 2009 electoral bloodbath, which saw double-digit losses by all three statewide Democratic candidates and a net pickup of a handful of seats for Republicans in the state House of Delegates:
Kaine's post-election analysis echoes criticism of the Deeds campaign that emerged from Washington and top aides to President Obama even before the election. It is a narrative that shields Obama from counterarguments by Republicans, who have contended that Virginia voters backed McDonnell to send a signal that they were displeased with Obama's leadership.
It is also a critique that Kaine, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, might be hoping will persuade congressional Democrats to be more supportive of Obama's policies, not less, as they contemplate their reelection efforts next year.
Kaine said the key to victory for Democrats in a highly competitive Virginia is recognizing that party members need not be "apologetic" about their affiliation to find success. He noted that about 200,000 more people voted in the Democratic primary for president on a frigid February day in 2008 than cast ballots for Deeds this year, and said McDonnell successfully spooked Deeds by suggesting that Virginians had grown anxious about the Democratic agenda.
"I think the issue of being nervous about the Virginia electorate was overdone and I think Creigh did exactly what the McDonnell campaign hoped he would do, which was distance himself from the president and national issues," Kaine said.
As he prepares to leave office, Kaine said he was pleased that Virginia's economy has remained dynamic, with unemployment below the national average, and that its education system has been widely praised.
He also said that Virginia benefits from more national attention because of its status as a competitive state in presidential politics.
He expressed optimism that Democrats will extend their one-vote majority in the state Senate by winning a special election to replace Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II, a Fairfax County Republican who was elected attorney general.