Archive for December 7th, 2011
We knew it would be good and it lived up to the expectations. George Allen and Tim Kaine have both been in debates like this many times and they displayed their abilities to stay on message, attack when the moment was right and back their opponents into positions that will be turned into web ads and YouTube clips that will be passed around for many months to come.
I have a few examples of those moments below, but first, my full debate wrap from NBC12:
RICHMOND (WWBT)- We’re still 11 months away until Virginians pick their next U.S. Senator, but today, Tim Kaine and George Allen were in mid-season form.
The two political pros gave and took their share of attacks in this first debate of the 2012 campaign. The debate was probably not seen by too many people. So Kaine and Allen worked hard to position their opponents in a box that would resonate beyond a small room at the state capitol.
“The deficit has ballooned because of policies George Allen perused when he was a U.S. Senator,” said Kaine.
Meanwhile, early on Allen tagged his opponent to the man in the White House.
“On every significant issue, Tim has sided with President Obama and not the people of Virginia,” he said.
As expected, they stuck very closely to carefully prepared talking points. When forced to venture outside their comfort zones, Kaine didn’t mince words when looking back on the macaca incident of 2006 which derailed Allen’s reelection campaign.
“I don’t know why he would say that,” Kaine said, “But for whatever reason he said it is part of the divisive politics that we have to put behind us in this country.”
read and see the rest of the story on NBC12.com.
There were some fireworks in this one including some that could resonate beyond the small room the debate was held in.
Personhood and contraception:
The first was a curious exchange on the proposed “personhood” amendment. A plan that would declare that life begins at conception. Kaine, who is opposed to the concept, claimed it would criminalize contraception. Allen, whose website boasts that he supports the policy, disagreed. That led to this confusing and very specific conversation about female reproduction.
As has been often mentioned, Tim Kaine will be forced to defend his support of President Barack Obama often. That will especially include his role as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Allen used his opportunity to question Kaine to talk about his time as DNC chair. That led to a testy exchange on the topic and Kaine passionately defending the president.
No matter how they might try to deflect it, the Kaine campaign seems prepared to use the incident in 2006 that was the beginning of the end of the Allen campaign. After declaring it “fair game” during a pre-debate conference call, Kaine said his campaign would not use the incident as a tool in their campaign. He then said he was glad Allen has apologized. Then he launched into a scorching criticism of Allen as a name caller and linking the ’06 incident as an indicator of the Republican’s inability to work with others. Make no mistake.. this IS a campaign issue. It is one Allen is clearly hoping to move past. He gave a half-hearted rebuttal and moved on to another topic. He doesn’t want to talk about it all. Kaine’s team seems to content to dredge of an event from 6 years ago as often as they can.
Kaine’s support for Health Care Reform
Finally, despite waning support nationwide and lukewarm support here in Virginia, Kaine is committed to health care reform. He said flatly that he would vote against a repeal and called it one of President Obama’s greatest accomplishments. Allen was ready to pounce. He called it a job killer and an example of Obama’s failed policies.
It is a race that will be closely watched throughout the country. This afternoon, George Allen and Tim Kaine will face off in their first head to head debate of 2012 U.S. Senate campaign.
The debate will be streamed live on TimesDispatch.com and we will have complete coverage tonight on NBC12 and a complete wrap here on Decision Virginia.
As we prepare for the debate, I thought I’d take a look back and some of the things both candidates have said leading up to today.
Allen & The Tea Party:
This debate has received quite a bit of criticism because the Associated Press and the Capitol Correspondents Association decided against including lesser known primary opponents. The Tea Party plans to protest on behalf of their candidate Jamie Radtke. Tim Donner also put out a statement saying today is a “distressing day”. Allen has worked to fight back claims that he is not in line with the Tea Party. Here is what he told me shortly before he announced his intentions about his conservative credentials.
Kaine & President Obama
The Allen Camp has worked hard to make sure that Governor Kaine is linked to President Obama as often as possible. For his part, Kaine rarely wiggles out of that claim. He is proud of his friendship with the president, but tries to point out areas where they disagree. This is what he told me after the president’s recent visit to the University of Richmond:
And one of the areas where he parts from Obama is on capital gains taxes. Listen to his response on the Obama plan to raise revenue through increases in that area.
Allen & Macaca
Try as he might, Allen cannot escape that ill-fated moment on the campaign trail from 2006. He has repeatedly apologized, but democrats do not seem willing to let it go. Here is how he explained it to me on First at 4:00:
“I thought of it as a nonsense word. If I had known the nickname could be considered a racial slur, I would not have said it,” he wrote in his book ,What Washington Can Learn From The World Of Sports. “I apologized to him and take full responsibility for the remark and its aftermath, which should have been handled much better.”
Meanwhile, Kaine and his team are not willing to let the past be the past. During another First at 4:00 interview Kaine said “We are both going to be judged on what we have done and what we’ve said.. And that is fair.” His quote comes towards the end of the interview:
Uncomfortable moments for Allen & Kaine:
Having interviewed both candidates close to a half a dozen times since they became candidates, we have attempted to pin them down on some issues they weren’t necessarily eager to talk about. For Governor Kaine it came during the battle over the debt ceiling. I gave him the chance to weigh in on President Obama’s role in the fight en-light of a vote he took against the debt ceiling when he was Senator. Kaine chose to punt on the question.. telling me he “wasn’t a student of that vote.”
On the other side of the coin, Allen bobbed and weaved for more than 8 minutes when I tried to pin him down on whether he would vote “yes” or “no” on Rep. Paul Ryan’s controversial budget plan. He said to me “go ahead and ask the democrat’s question”
One thing is clear, these two men are political titans of the highest caliber. These interviews show them at their best, staying on message and driving home their point.
This afternoon will be fun.