Virginia Politics: ’08 fall campaign gets into gear in Buena Vista
Story by Chris Graham
I had a hard time transcribing the recordings of my interviews, it was so loud. I’ve been to the past 12 Buena Vista Labor Day events, and this was by far the most energetic one I’ve ever been a part of.
“In my life, I’ve never seen anything like this for a candidate for president. Something’s going on – not just in our country and in Virginia, but in the Valley of Virginia,” Bath County State Sen. Creigh Deeds told me over the din, and he was clearly onto something.
The Obama! Obama! chants were the unexpected part of the proceedings. The various Mark Warner cheers were not surprising given the former governor’s 25-point lead in his U.S. Senate race with his predecessor in Richmond, Republican Jim Gilmore, almost an afterthought among even the hardest of the hard core in the GOP.
Virginia Democrats are clearly energized, even if their Republican counterparts seem to be playing it low-key these days.
“That mansion on the hill that Ronald Reagan used to talk about – that vision is lost for so many people. People are looking for change to bring it back. And they see that in Barack Obama,” said Deeds, who is running for the ’09 Democratic Party gubernatorial nomination, and who was in Denver last week working the Virginia delegation to the Democratic National Convention along with one announced intraparty challenger, Northern Virginia State Del. Brian Moran, and one unannounced potential challenger, former Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe.
Warner was his usual self today in Buena Vista, darting across the parade route to shake hands and pose for pictures with local residents even in the wake of a basketball injury that sent him to the University of Virginia Medical Center a couple of weeks ago for an overnight stay. The hoops injury didn’t keep Warner from the appointed hour in Denver last week that had him delivering the convention’s keynote address.
“I think that there was great energy, great enthusiasm. I was happy in Barack Obama’s speech to see that he brought it down to specifics with his proposals. And I think the party came out united,” Warner said. “I’m also proud that Virginia got a chance to highlight its story. I thought it was important even though it might not have been politically smart to talk about bipartisanship. Because that’s what the country needs. The country does need to celebrate common ground. You ask 80 percent of the people on this parade route, and they want things fixed. They’re not as concerned about whether it’s a D or an R. They want a chance to see their lives improved.”
The Republicans taking part in today’s events in Buena Vista should have been more festive with their party’s convention getting ready to kick off in St. Paul, but the convention is in a holding pattern with the news on the Gulf Coast with the landfall of Hurricane Gustav. “It’s a hard call, but ultimately it’s the candidate’s choice, and the candidate chose to show some leadership here. And I applaud him for that,” Rockbridge County Republican Scott Sayre said of the decision to clear tonight’s convention schedule. Rockbridge State. Del. Ben Cline would be willing to go one step further. “We need to make sure that we watch what’s going on down in New Orleans and have proper respect for the emergency and disaster. So if we need to postpone it, that might be appropriate,” Cline said.
NoVa State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, a candidate for the ’09 GOP attorney-general nomination, used the Gustav news to take a dig at Democrats for their handling of the ’05 Hurricane Katrina, which for many marked a turning point of sorts in the Bush presidency when its own bungled approach to the natural disaster came to light. “I will say that it’s been night and day in Louisiana with Bobby Jindal as governor and (former governor Kathleen) Blanco,” Cuccinelli said. “The preparation has been spectacular. You’ve got a brilliant governor down there. I think that state really regrets for that Republican four years before they did. They paid a very dear price for it, as a matter of fact,” Cuccinelli said.