As Tim Kaine opens up a small lead in the race for the open Senate seat in Virginia, both the former Democratic governor and his Republican opponent, former governor and senator George Allen, face off in their second debate Monday night in Richmond. Both candidates' latest TV advertisements may hint at the different strategies going into the debate and the final weeks of the campaign in what still remains a toss-up race in an important swing state.
Kaine's new ad trumpets his relationship with Mark Warner, Kaine's predecessor as governor and a current senator. "Tim Kaine and I both cut our own pay as governors, to lead by example," Warner says in the ad.
"We were a great team in Richmond," Warner says, nodding to Kaine's role as Warner's lieutenant governor from 2002 to 2006. "And we'll be a great team in Washington," Kaine adds. Watch the ad below:
Warner left the governor's mansion in 2006 with high approval ratings and a budget surplus. Kaine, on the other hand, left office with mixed approval and a $4.2 billion two-year budget deficit, the result of a failed transportation package that consumed the second half of Kaine's term.
Allen, meanwhile, has a new ad focusing on the the defense cuts coming as a result of the failure of Congress to reach a budget deal. "Tim Kaine supported last year's debt deal that will impose devastating defense cuts, threatening Virginia jobs," the voiceover says. "George Allen opposed it." Watch the ad below:
Virginia voters can probably expect Allen to emphasize these cuts, as well as Kaine's proposal to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans (as demonstrated in another recent Allen ad). But the Kaine campaign has argued that Allen's claims on defense spending are false.
"It really does take some brass to run an ad that has been debunked twice before it even aired," said Kaine adviser Mo Elleithee in a conference call with reporters. It's unclear, though, what fact is being "debunked." It is true that Kaine supported the debt deal, which was brokered by House Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, while Allen opposed it. Elleithee correctly noted that other Republicans, including Virginia congressman and majority leader Eric Cantor, supported the debt deal that led to the defense cuts, but the Allen ad never says otherwise.
What Allen's ad only criticizes is Kaine's support for the deal, although the Republican might do better to examine exactly how Kaine proposes to pay for the defense spending. Kaine supports a plan that would increase taxes on the wealthiest, end subsidies to oil companies, and end the "prohibition on drug price negotiation for Medicare."