The theme music from “Rocky” played in the background as Tim Kaine and Mark Warner made their way to the stage.
It was appropriate – because Kaine, like the mythical boxer Rocky Balboa, and Warner, like his trainer, Mickey, had just pulled off the political upset of the year.
Warner, whose golden touch lifted Kaine from the doldrums of a 10-point deficit in the polls earlier this year, stood at Kaine’s side as he addressed the Commonwealth literally on Election Day’s 11th hour.
The victory in Tuesday’s balloting wasn’t as dramatic as the comeback waged by Kaine in the polls – Kaine bested Republican Jerry Kilgore by 115,000 votes and nearly six percentage points all told.
“Tonight is a great night, because Virginians chose to keep our Commonwealth moving forward. Tonight, Virginians from one end of our Commonwealth to the other said no to negative campaigning,” Warner said in a brief speech that preceded Kaine’s.
The pundits attributed Kaine’s rise in the polls to two factors – one, his decision to align himself more closely with the popular Warner, whose approval ratings have consistently been in the 70 percent-plus range, and two, Kilgore’s decision to go sharply negative late in the race with a series of spots attacking Kaine for his personal opposition to the death penalty.
“Tim Kaine has run a great race. Tim Kaine has made his race on a positive vision for where we’re going to take Virginia. Tim Kaine has run a race that should make us all proud to be Virginians,” Warner said.
Kaine, for his part, put his focus in his remarks on his campaign theme of moving the state forward.
“Now it’s time to build on the progress that we have made the past four years and write the next chapter in Virginia’s great history,” Kaine said. “We’re going to keep working to give every Virginia child a world-class education. And we’re going to start sooner by offering pre-kindergarten to every Virginia 4-year-old. We’re going to tackle our growing transportation challenges. And we’re going to do it in a way that restores public trust, just as Gov. Warner has, and prevents runaway development from clogging up our roads and our beautiful landscapes.
“We’re going to build on the success that has given Virginia the second-lowest unemployment rate in the nation, and we’re going to continue to make sure that that prosperity spreads to every region and every part of this Commonwealth. And we’re going to give local governments the ability to provide real, targeted tax relief to homeowners, and we’ll do it in a fiscally responsible way,” Kaine said.
“We can do this, and we will, by coming together as Virginians, by pulling together,” Kaine said.