Obama, Kaine, and The Worst Political Pun EVER!

So what if Goose got a chance to hob nob for twenty seconds with the good Dr. Dean? Dean Schmean, I’m just now getting home from watching one of the brightest stars in the Democratic Party speak, and I gotta tell ya, Ill. Senator Barak Obama is every single bit the political rock star you have heard about.

That and more.

Sen. Obama dropped down to visit our humble Virginia to speak at a little rally on behalf of Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine. And after listening to Att. Gen. candidate Creigh Deeds speak for a few minutes, it was blatantly obvious who everyone was waiting to hear. Not the candidate who’s name was plastered all over the high school gymnasium in which we sat, but the brilliant young black Senator who had enchanted so many last year as a keynote speaker of the Democratic National Convention.

This fact was made even more obvious after the announcement was made that the would be governor and the senator had entered the building. As the names to state Democratic candidates were announced, each was obviously cheered in kind, but it was Obama’s name that inspired people to get to their feet (those who weren’t already standing out of necessity). The house was stacked, packed, and stoked to see the Senator (getting the impression that I’m talking up Barak a little?).

And it’s true, when the man got on the mic, he was masterful. Handsome and intelligent he worked the crowd with a wondrous rhythm. He recounted memories of a younger Barak Obama working the streets of Chicago as he pushed for a state senate seat. How the most common question was “where did you get a name like that?” Which received quite a few titters of laughter. The second most common question being “with all you have accomplished, why politics?”

And it was this second question that truly set the mood for the rest of the rally. It should be said here and now that this rally was in no way shape or form even slightly about the smear. As bad as I wanted to run up to the senator and ask, “Mr. Obama, five indictments on Scooter Libby, an embarassing failure of a SCOTUS nominee, and record low presidential approval ratings, what are your thoughts?”, by the time the event had finished, I had gotten the distinct feeling that to do so would be to mar the mood.

But Barak was masterful. At the beginning of the oration he paused for each spot of applause, but as the tempo built into a crescendo, he merely talked over the applause, conducting it instead of just letting it take place. Politically brilliant is the fact that here in part of the Bible belt, you have two very religious politicians who both spent time doing missionary work, and they both used it much to their advantage. I say this now because it was not long into Obama’s speech before it felt exactly like a fiery sermon, only instead of random shouts of “Amen!,” one heard random shouts of, “Obama for President!”

All in all, I fully well expected Obama to fully upstage Tim Kaine. At least in the opening applause he did, but imagine my shock (I had never actually heard Tim Kaine speak live before) when I found Tim Kaine to be equally masterful with the crowd.

Senator Obama standing behind him with that perpetually pensive look on his face, Kaine played the crowd with humility and humor (in coming up with three similarities between he and Obama, Kaine eventually had to fall back on the fact that, “both our mothers are from Kansas.”), but it wasn’t long before he retook the theme of a positive campaign to great effect.

The climax to this theme was the recounting of the single debate in this years Governor race. The precedent has been, up until now, two debates, but according to Kaine, this time around Kilgore would only agree to one… on a Sunday evening… during NASCAR… and MLB playoffs… and the NFL. At the end of this debate, Kaine said the moderator had tossed a trick question at the two candidates right at the end:

“Everyone knows better than to expect a purely clean campaign, but can you look 7.5 million Virginians in the eye, and tell them that from here on out, at least 50% of your campaign will be positive?”

There was a bit of a pause, those who watched the debate (like my friend Christina who was sitting next to me) giggled madly… particularly at those who obviously hadn’t (we were sitting at the edge of our seats). The tension built as Kaine continued to remark how tricky this question was… how big of a surprise, and then…

“It was also the easiest question I’ve had all night!” The gym exploded as Kaine launched into what I felt was a particularly awesome stump speech. “Of course my campaign’s gonna be positive because I’ve got a good news story to tell.”

And he does have a goodnews story to tell. As the Lt. Gov. under Mark Warner, Tim Kaine has seen first hand a huge turn around in Virginia, watching the commonwealth go from one of the worst managed states in the union to the best. Tim Kaine helped Mark Warner push Va. from junk bonds to a AAA bond rating on Wall Street. I mean, Mark Warner hasn’t just served one term as Va.’s governor, but just one term in ELECTED OFFICE completely. And yet, after only four years of elected office, he’s a serious contendor for 08.

So yeah, Tim Kaine did have a good news story to tell Virginia, and he reiterated it to us with zeal. Finally, after touting the many economic, social, and educational reforms he and Warner have made, he finished out the story of that debate.

The moderator looked over at Kilgore, directing the same question. Beads of sweat formed as he flustered for a little bit. See, Kilgore went negative early, and virtually every tv spot from his camp has been negative, and so he went to defending his ads, saying how he stands behind them. Then, believe it or not, he actually started to attack Kaine (apparently he had been doing this all night) and so finally, the moderator cut in and said, “I’ll take that as a no”.

Again, at the conclusion of the story, the entire gymnasium went wild.

Now I really don’t have all that much power in the political sphere, but I really want people too look at this campaign. As I’ve said before, I truly think this is one of the most important races you will see this year, and even next year. I’m obviously not alone since one of the Democratic Party’s brightest stars made a trip out here to deliver a twenty minute speech on a Sunday afternoon. So the stakes are high, higher than I think most the people in that gym even knew.

But it was also about the attitude. Sure, Kilgore got a little bit of ribbing based on his performence at the debates. but that was the only Kilgore ribbing, or GOP ribbing at all. Despite a relentless tv campaign from the opposition, the only time Kaine ever seems to even recognize that he has an opponent is to try and shake him off of the attack.

Aside from that Lt. Gov. Kaine really does have a good news story to tell, and I truly hope the people of Virginia have the sense to vote for that good news story to continue.

***

On the way out, I’m sitting in my friend Christina’s passenger seat. She just got a brand new mustang, and has been eager to show it off at every opportunity. Considering my truck gets ten miles to the gallon, I was more than happy to ride on her gas bill for at least the rest of the afternoon.

Traffic moving out of the parking lot was horrible, an actual campaign point for Kaine as traffic in Virginia as a whole is ridiculous. As we crept along we of course talked of this and that. I had quipped that, “Kilgore is here now filming this traffic for his next tv spot: ‘These Democrats can’t even get out of a parking lot, how can we expect them to run our state?'” I’m a very funny man, so she laughed. Unfortunately what would follow later will undoubtedly be dubbed “the worst political pun ever!”

As we are waiting for the traffic to clear, Christina gets a call from the other duo that went to the rally with us. She chatted with them for a short while about the traffic and then, out of nowhere, and without warning, she said this: “it looks like everyone up ahead is turning right… which is bad for the Democratic Party’s future.”

Yes she said it, I was there, and I’m not proud. I tried to do the honorable thing and talk her into ritual suicide but to no avail.

***

All joking beside, Sen. Obama was right in saying that “we are all connected.” And I can’t state vehemently enough just how vital this race is, not just in protecting the progress made in the commonwealth of Virginia, but in the national political sphere as well. Virginia can be our foothold in the South, the chink in the GOP’s electorate armor. But with that said, Kaine is still only just squeezing ahead of Kilgore and even then only within the margin of error. So please, partake in the same kind of insight that Sen. Obama and myself share, and click on the link above to see what you can do to help Kaine continue the progress of the slow fight to win back the South.

Thanks.

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