Former National Dem Chief Says Virginia is Key
The former national chairman of the Democratic Party who ran Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign this year told 200 Democratic activists in Fairfax County Tuesday that Virginia Governor Tim Kaine would be his party’s best choice as Barack Obama’s vice presidential running mate.
Terry McAuliffe brought his articulate, high energy speaking style to the monthly meeting of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee at Oakton High School, to, among other things, “make no mistake” that his party leadership considers Virginia “a battleground state” in the 100 days left to fight it out for the presidency this fall.
“The fact that we’ve opened 33 offices around the state should remove all doubt” about how important Virginia is perceived to be for winning the election, he said. “We’ve leased them all through November,” he added.
Although Virginia hasn’t gone for a Democratic presidential nominee since 1964, and until recently was considered a solid “red,” or Republican, state, the last three statewide elections for U.S. Senate and governor have all gone to the Democratic candidate.
Obama will have the benefit of having on the slate with him in Virginia a strong and popular Democrat running for the U.S. Senate, former Governor Mark Warner, with the demonstrated ability to win support among Republican voters.
So far, the campaign of presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, has announced the opening of only one office in the state, in Virginia Beach. McCain will have a tougher time working in sync with the Virginia GOP’s nominee for the U.S. Senate, former Governor Jim Gilmore, who represents the party’s most conservative wing.
McAuliffe was adamant in his recommendation of Kaine as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nominee Tuesday, although he stressed to the News-Press after his speech, which included an informal half-hour question and answer period, that the ultimate choice will be Obama’s very personal one.
However, the fact that he proposed Kaine over his own candidate and long-time friend, Hillary Clinton, suggested that he knows the Clinton option is off the table.
He told the large audience in the school cafeteria that there are only two factors in picking a vice president. The first, he said, is the ability of the choice to govern effectively as president, if need be. The second is personal compatibility with the presidential candidate.
“These are the only two factors that really matter,” he said. “Others, like geographical considerations, are much less important.”
Kaine was among the first public officials to endorse Obama’s campaign a year before the launch of the primary season, and has campaigned with him often.
Rumors are widespread that McCain may announce his vice presidential running mate by the end of this week, ahead of the distraction that the Olympics, which begin Aug. 8, will bring. The Olympics’ closing ceremony will be Aug. 24, a day after the start of the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Whatever the timing for the Democratic vice presidential announcement, “it will be designed to produce the biggest bounce” in public interest, McAuliffe said.
In addition to pronouncing Virginia a “battleground state” and recommending Kaine for his party’s vice presidential choice, McAuliffe also said that Virginia “deserves” to be considered by his party for one of its early primary dates in 2012.
It was McAuliffe, during his tenure as chair of the Democratic National Committee, who broke up the tradition of allowing Iowa and New Hampshire to always have the first primary elections. “It was designed to better reflect the true demographic of our party in the early primaries,” he said, so the primaries for the states of South Carolina, Arizona and New Mexico were moved up.
That opened the door for the problems that developed this primary season, resulting in party sanctions against Michigan and Florida, but that will be fixed, McAuliffe said.
Of course, it could be argued that McAuliffe’s pro-Virginia sentiments stem from the fact that he lives here, near to Falls Church, in fact, in the Spring Hill precinct of Fairfax’s Dranesville District.
In addition to Democratic elected officials and hopefuls, among those sitting in the audience were the Obama campaign’s Northern Virginia regional field coordinator, Luke McGowan, and the Providence/Mason/Falls Church field coordinator, Kyle Lierman.