In its first comments on last night’s Democratic victories in races for governor of Virginia and New Jersey last night, the White House this morning credited outgoing Gov. Mark Warner with the victory of fellow Democrat Tim Kaine to succeed him in the Old Dominion.
"Gov. Warner campaigned hard for the Democratic candidate," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said, responding to a question at this morning’s briefing from ABC-TV’s Ann Compton as to what he felt about last night’s elections. In citing the popular Warner’s vigorous activities on behalf of the triumphant Kaine, McClellan also pointed out that the Warner’s Democratic lieutenant governor also campaigned on a platform that was "different from the platform of the national Democratic Party." Specifically, the President’s top spokesman cited Kaine’s stands in favor of "lower taxes, a balanced budget" and being against "partial birth abortion" as examples of where Virginia’s governor-elect separated himself from his national party.
When I asked a follow-up question about whether the President’s Monday night stopover on behalf of Republican nominee Jerry Kilgore was initiated by his campaign or the White House, McClellan replied "with the campaign." He added that the Bush appearance in Richmond following his week-long trip to Latin America was "on behalf of the entire Republican ticket," and that Republicans in Virginia "won back the lieutenant governorship" and that the GOP candidate for attorney general "is ahead." (Republican State Sen. Bill Bolling won a close race for lieutenant governor over Democratic former Rep. Leslie Byrne; at presstime, State Delegate and GOPer Bob McDonnell clung to a microscopic vote edge over fellow Delegate Creigh Deeds in the race for attorney general, with a recount almost certain; Democrats made a net gain of one in races for the state House of Delegates, reducing the GOP majority in the 100-Member chamber from 60 to 59.)
Political pundits ranging from University of Virginia Prof. Larry Sabato to ABC-TV George Stephanopolous joined with McClellan in hailing the Kaine victory as a boost for Warner who, as Stephanopolous noted, "is headed for New Hampshire next week."
Warner leaves the governorship in January and is reportedly poised to explore a bid for the Democratic nomination for president in ’08.
McClellan also dismissed speculation by some national Democrats that the victories of Kaine and Gov.-elect Jon Corzine in New Jersey ("a blue state," according to the President’s spokesman) have anything to do with national trends. He pointed out that Democrats won races for governor in both states in ’01 and that in ’02, Republicans made "unprecedented" mid-year gains in the U.S. House and Senate.