Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine looked a little surprised when he saw the packed house at Mill Street Grill in Downtown Staunton.
“The fact that you’re here on Jan. 7 – this race isn’t until November. That you are here in this number on Jan. 7 really gives me energy and enthusiasm,” Kaine told the gathering of around 100 local Democrats.
Kaine has been locked in a tight battle with another former governor, George Allen, for the U.S. Senate seat left open by the pending retirement of Democrat Jim Webb. Tight races are not necessarily anything new for Kaine, a former lieutenant governor and Richmond mayor, who has won seven elections, but not won a contested race with more than 53 percent of the vote going in his favor.
Virginia will also be a key battleground state in Barack Obama’s re-election campaign against the winner in the crowded Republican presidential sweepstakes. Kaine served as Obama’s handpicked Democratic National Committee chair and pledged to work hard for Obama in his re-election battle.
“Virginia is where we used to be in the 1700s and 1800s. We’re right at the center of the action. We’re right on the stage with the spotlight on us,” Kaine said, crediting Democratic Party volunteers in the room and across the Commonwealth for making Virginia politically relevant again.
Kaine said he doesn’t expect Obama to win the state in November as comfortably as he did in 2008, when he defeated Republican nominee John McCain by seven percentage points.
“But I think 2012 is going to be a very, very good for us here in Virginia,” Kaine said.
Editor’s Note: Tim Kaine sat down for an interview with AFP editor Chris Graham after the Staunton event. Segments from the interview will be available beginning on Monday on AugustaFreePress.com.