Politics & Policy

Is Kaine Able…

...to cast himself as a centrist?

Virginia Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine really wants you to believe he’s a political moderate. That makes sense since his boss, Mark Warner, is a self-described centrist with approval ratings that hover above 60 percent. When Kaine talks to voters or the media, he enthusiastically details what he describes as his personally pro-life, pro-gun, and fiscally conservative leanings. There’s just one problem: None of it appears to be true.

In the past, Tim Kaine once described himself as a “proud liberal.” These days, Kaine describes himself as personally pro-life. It’s a similar tactic unsuccessfully engineered by John Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign. A look through Kaine’s public-campaign disclosures reveals that the consulting group Struble Eichenbaum Communications has produced all of Kaine’s campaign advertisements in his run against Jerry Kilgore to become Virginia’s next governor. If the name Struble Eichenbaum Communications doesn’t sound familiar, it probably should. Struble Eichenbaum Communications produced the recent controversial and widely refuted TV advertisement for NARAL Pro-Choice America that falsely attacked the record of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. The ad has since been pulled and one of NARAL’s spokespersons resigned in the aftermath. The Kaine campaign has paid Struble Eichenbaum a reported $124,103 through June 2005 for its services.

Rather than condemning the ad, the Kaine campaign has embraced Struble Eichenbaum Communications. Kaine spokeswoman Delacey Skinner told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “We feel like the work they have done for us has been really good.” Delacey added Kaine “feels strongly” about accuracy.

As it turns out, though, $124,103 wasn’t enough to win NARAL’s endorsement. The group declined to publicly endorse Kaine’s candidacy when it released its list of 2005 campaign endorsements.

Kilgore spokesman Tucker Martin tells National Review Online, “Tim Kaine’s pro-life rhetoric clearly doesn’t match his pro-abortion relationships and his pro-abortion record. No true pro-life candidate would ever hire a media firm like this one to disseminate their message. If you want to know where someone stands, just look at who they stand with. Kaine is pulling the John Kerry makeover this year in Virginia, only problem is his rhetoric keeps tripping over his record.”

Tim Kaine’s relationship with questionable liberal organizations is not limited to his advertising department. The Kaine campaign has spent more than $12,500 in the past year for the talents of opposition-research group SCN Public Relations. SCN is well known in the political arena for its ability to “dig up dirt” on political opponents. SCN’s other clients have included former California Governor Gray Davis, DNC Chairman Howard Dean, Senator Barbara Boxer, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

When it comes to protecting the second amendment, Kaine’s record is even worse. Like many Democrats, Kaine gives a good talk about supporting sportsmen and gun rights. But while running for lieutenant governor in 2001,the National Rifle Association gave Kaine an “F” rating. In this year’s gubernatorial contest, the NRA has already endorsed Kilgore. During a recent interview with Cam Edwards of NRA News, Kaine was asked if he’d rather have the support of the NRA or the Brady Campaign. Kaine answered, “You know, I want everybody’s support.” When pressed by Edwards for a more specific answer, Kaine said, “You know, I’m not writing anybody off.”

However, the more they get to know him Virginia voters may be ready to write off Tim Kaine. Recent polls have shown him steadily trailing Kilgore by more than five points. And while Mark Warner’s approval-rating numbers continue to rise, Kaine’s approval numbers have now dipped below 50 percent.

None of this guarantees a victory for Jerry Kilgore in November. While the NARAL ad generated much controversy within the online community, Kaine’s association with Struble Eichenbaum Communications is not likely to trickle down into the consciousness of your average Virginia voter. And despite its roster of far-left political figures, SCN Public Relations has been successful in its past attempts to mold liberal personas into more congenial candidates. After all, Gray Davis was a major player and quite successful in California politics before his recall election loss to Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2002. Howard Dean may be the brunt of countless conservative jokes, but he still holds the highest position within the Democratic party. And Barbara Boxer has recently been anointed by some as the default face for the liberal wing of the Democrats’ Senate minority.

Kaine’s best hope for victory is to ride the coattails of Mark Warner into office. But Warner faced an arguably weak candidate in his own election and is now focused in on a possible 2008 presidential campaign. When Kaine and Kilgore take the stage to debate their political philosophies, Kilgore will have his opportunity to reveal Kaine’s true agenda for the people of Virginia. Because even as the dynamics of Virginia’s political makeup continue to evolve, there’s still not much room in the gubernatorial mansion for a tax raising, pro-abortion, anti-gun liberal.

Eric Pfeiffer writes the daily political “Buzz” column on NRO.

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