“Earlier this week, you received a letter from Governor McDonnell. I must echo the comments he made,” Houck wrote. “When times are tough, individuals turn to government, whether it is federal, state or local, for assistance. . . . Unfortunately, when aid is most needed in this specific instance, the federal government is not doing its job.”
Houck is attempting to run against “Washington” in his ads. “With Washington politics spiraling out of control, our state senator is grounded in Virginia. . . . He’ll work with anyone, or stand up to anyone to do what’s right.” There is nothing in Houck’s ad that indicates he is a Democrat.
Finally, Obama’s initial Newport News stop would have taken him to the district of incumbent senator John C. Miller, whom the Virginia GOP is hitting for proposing gas-tax hikes, a sales tax on cars, and new tolls.
Obama’s revised itinerary now includes a high school in Emporia on Tuesday — a community that is 56 percent African-American — Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, and a fire station in Chesterfield County outside Richmond on Wednesday. Hampton is in one of four state senate districts where Republicans are not fielding a candidate.
Give the Obama White House credit for being willing to make one stop outside their comfort zone; Chesterfield County is a heavily Republican region. The Democratic candidate in this district, David Bernard, could be seen as something of a sacrificial lamb; in the early 1980s he spent seven months in federal prison camp for misdemeanor possession after federal agents found marijuana plants on his farm.
Obama was always going to have troubles in the more Republican-leaning parts of the state. A vivid example: State Sen. Phil Puckett, who praised Obama in the past, recently announced that he would not be supporting Obama for reelection because of his regulations on the coal industry. But even in the bluest corners of the state, Democrats are wary of their party’s reputation in the current political environment. George Barker, a Democrat running in northern Virginia, is running an ad that boasts that he “passed more than 20 bills by working with Republicans, Democrats, and Gov. Bob McDonnell — to create jobs, help veterans afford college, and balance our budget without a dime in new taxes.” Like Houck’s ad, nothing identifies the candidate as a Democrat.
There are other indicators of a disconnect between the Obama campaign and local Democrats. The president’s campaign operation, Obama for America, has been gearing up, recruiting volunteers for their 2012 operation. In these calls to supporters and meetings, state legislative elections in 2011 usually go unmentioned.
“Virginia elections always seem to intertwine state and federal issues,” says Tucker Martin, communications director for Governor McDonnell. “That’s probably partly due to our proximity to Washington and partly due to our unique off-year state election cycle. Regardless of why it occurs, the fact is it always does. The two issue sets mingle. And to the extent that is occurring this year, it is clearly not good for Virginia Democrats. Watching the campaign unfold, it does appear many Democratic candidates are far more interested in playing up their work with our administration in Richmond, rather than their connection to the administration in Washington. That speaks volumes.”
Tuesday morning brought news that the Democrats’ senatorial candidate in 2012, Tim Kaine, would not be appearing with the president on his bus trip — even though Kaine, governor of the state from 2005 to 2009, was Obama’s appointee to head the DNC.
With this act of ingratitude, one might easily conclude that no elected official in Virginia is willing to be seen with the president, but there is one surprising exception. At the event at the military base in Hampton touting tax credits for hiring veterans, Obama will be joined by . . . McDonnell, the Republican governor.
Perhaps Obama is hoping some of McDonnell’s popularity rubs off on him.
— Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO.