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Tim Kaine (left) isn't allergic
POLLSTERS understate matters when they say the U.S. Senate race in Virginia between Tim Kaine (D) and George Allen (R) is a "tossup." The contest appears to be so close that a tossed coin would land on its edge: Eight of nine summertime surveys compiled by Real Clear Politics put the two former Old Dominion governors within 2 points of each other, while the last three of those polls say "tied."
But the most interesting polling result will be the next one--the first one after Mr. Kaine bathed in seven free minutes of TV time, interrupted only by applause, with a Tuesday speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. In a confident, bluff-calling gambit, the Democrat effectively sneered at GOP attempts to tie him to Barack Obama, instead taking a prominent role in the president's four-day re-coronation ceremony and praising the prez as a leader "who put results ahead of ideology."
Many Americans would not readily praise those results or certify the mildness of that ideology. No matter. The speaker's boldness in butting heads with the chief Republican line of attack on him, to the cheers of thousands of partisans, can hardly fail to give Mr. Kaine, a former Democratic National Committee chairman during much of Mr. Obama's presidency, a boost. George Allen, after all, had no equivalent limelight in which to perform.
So where was Mr. Allen at last week's Republican convention in Tampa? Nowhere near a camera. For while it is obvious that national Democrats thought Mr. Kaine's seven minutes would do no harm to the president, Republican leaders seem to have deemed Mr. Allen radioactive to Mitt Romney. After all, the GOP spent a good deal of time in Tampa parading out blacks and Hispanics to sing the praises of Republicanism. The last thing they needed was a guest appearance by Mr. Macaca.
As for the content of Mr. Kaine's administration-lauding speech, much of it was sadistically ambushed by new economic data. While Mr. Kaine was boasting that America under Mr. Obama "went from 25 months of job losses to 29 straight months of private-sector job growth," the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group, said that U.S. manufacturing activity had fallen to its lowest reading in three years; Treasury announced that the national debt had topped $16 trillion; and the Department of Agriculture reported a record number of Americans on food stamps. (The Democratic faithful may be happy that they are breaking camp tomorrow, when new jobless numbers are released.)
Meanwhile, regarding Mr. Kaine's jubilation that "the auto industry is back," that news demands a rather fat asterisk. As the Miami Herald's Glenn Garvin recently reported, American taxpayers still own 500 million shares of stock in a bailed-out GM, whose shares are selling for about $20--$34 less than the price at which the government's investment could merely break even; and to pump up sales, GM is increasingly depending on subprime loans, the sort that did so much for the housing industry.
However, Mr. Kaine was more accurate in attacking the opposition than in defending his team. For example, there is no gainsaying his dig that "the last time they were in charge, the other side [i.e., the Republicans] turned a record surplus into a massive deficit with two wars, trillions in tax breaks, loopholes, and entitlements they wouldn't pay for." That about sums up the GWB fiscal saga, which is why the Tea Party should have been brewing a big kettle of populist hell well before Mr. Obama came to power.
In sum, Mr. Kaine's oration, if not one to make Diogenes retire his lantern, was good for his party and for him. The Democrat just got a bit more popular, Virginia a shade more blue.
POSTSCRIPT: CANDIDATE SUPPRESSION
The Virginia branch of the Republican Party--one of its former buzzwords was "empowerment"--has failed to bar presidential candidates Virgil Goode, the pride of Rocky Mount, and New Mexico's Gary Johnson from the November ballot. The State Board of Elections ruled this week that the two could vie for the state's 13 electoral votes right alongside Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney.
Mr. Goode heads the ticket of the Constitution Party. Mr. Johnson, perhaps most famous for his observation that his neighbor's two dogs had created more shovel-ready jobs than Mr. Obama, bears the Libertarian standard. Each would take a few votes from Mr. Romney in an election where a few votes could tell the tale, so the state GOP tried to exclude them. It did not try to blacklist the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, a caterpillar who would munch on Mr. Obama's vote total.
Thus the one-time party of empowerment tried but failed to disempower Virginians seeking a rightist, third-party alternative on Election Day. Now Tea Partyers and Libertarians know how the NAACP feels.