Rumors of Kaine campaign implosion blown out of proportion; B1
(Daily Staff Writer)
Virginia’s political community has been abuzz with the biggest story of the campaign so far: the beginning of the end of Kaine for Governor.
But some of the signs of the end seen with gloom by Democrats and glee by the GOP have been blown a bit out of proportion, according to those involved.
It started with posts on conservative blogs about Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine showing up at the Salem Fair late on July 2, only to find the place awash in the colors of Jerry Kilgore, the former attorney general and now Republican candidate for governor, with hardly a Kaine sign or balloon to be seen.
Kaine allegedly lit into his staff for bad field work and then left. Over the course of the week, the story grew, and began to garner complaints from Democratic activists who don’t like the direction the campaign is taking.
“Raising Kaine,” a blog whose stated goal is “blogging Tim Kaine into the Governor’s Mansion” took up the cry, applauding Kaine for chastising his advance team, calling for staff changes at the Kaine camp and pointing out other missed opportunities.
“Perhaps July 4 was the moment when Tim Kaine saw for himself some serious problems in his campaign and began to move to correct them,” blogged Lowell Feld.
But there’s a problem with the Salem Fair incident, according to people who were there.
It didn’t happen.
Republicans had Marty Kilgore, the candidate’s wife, at the fair for about four hours, along with a sea of Kilgore orange and blue balloons. When Kaine arrived, the scene was nothing unusual, said Joshua Myers, chairman of the Salem Republican Committee.
“No one here locally saw anything,” said Myers. One volunteer reported back that he overheard Kaine ask staff, “Where’s my balloons? Don’t we have any balloons?” and staffers reported back that “we’re working on it.”
House of Delegates Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, also was there campaigning and spoke with Kaine shortly after he arrived.
“We’d been there about four hours with Marty Kilgore,” he said. “He seemed perfectly fine. Was he tired? Yes. So were we.”
But “he was in complete control. He was not having a Howard Dean moment.”
Anyone who knows Kaine understands that’s not the way he does things, his press secretary, Delacey Skinner, said on Monday. For all the good it does fundraising and organizing, she said the Internet gives rumors and outright lies legs they wouldn’t ordinarily have.
“There was absolutely nothing remotely like what was talked about,” she said.
Even if the incident has been overblown, Feld said, the campaign has missed opportunities to mobilize volunteers, both at events and via e-mail — a technique pioneered by Dean, now the Democratic National Committee chairman, during his 2004 presidential bid.
If the S.S. Kaine is sinking, it’s not showing the hallmarks of a campaign headed toward the rocks, according to Craig Brians, a professor of political science at Virginia Tech.
Other than not raising money, one of the more public signs of trouble shows up in the message, when a campaign starts “strafing everyone,” he said.
When the candidate and communications staff start lashing out at people who aren’t even in the race, “running against everyone and taking no prisoners,” the ship could be taking on water.
The Kaine camp has been anything but anemic in fundraising to date. Candidates don’t have to report their finances again until Friday, but as of the June 6 reporting deadline, Kaine was the money leader over both Kilgore and his other opponent, state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester.
And the Kaine camp has had one and only one target in its sights for months — Kilgore.
To date, Kaine has taken only one mild swipe at Potts. When asked by reporters last month, Kaine said that Potts’ transportation plan should look at projects, not funding first.
Potts’ name doesn’t appear once in the dozens of press releases sent out by the campaign’s staff.
Election Day is Nov. 8. Kaine and Kilgore are set to square off on Saturday.