Speaking to reporters following his second televised debate against Republican George Allen Monday night, Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine of Virginia was asked if he would vote for Harry Reid, currently the majority leader, for the Democrats' top position in the U.S. Senate. Kaine refused to answer the question.
"It’s too early to talk about leadership questions," Kaine said. "That’s not the kind of thing you talk about when you’re a candidate who still has to win a race. I’m not going to be thinking about things after the race. I still have a lot of hard work to do over the next 28 days."
Kaine, who has a small lead over Allen in the polls, according to the Real Clear Politics average, spent much of the debate arguing he would be a more bipartisan senator and more willing to compromise than his opponent.
"Congress is holding us back," Kaine said in his opening statement. "What we need to do is change Congress, especially in two ways. We need people who are more fiscally responsible, and we need more people who know, frankly, the basics about how to work together."
Kaine mentioned immigration as an issue he could see himself working with the GOP on, but when asked by THE WEEKLY STANDARD about President Obama's failure to pass immigration reform in his first term as promised, Kaine blamed Republicans in the Senate for "filibustering."
"If there had been even a handful of Republican votes, there could have been reform, but one hundred percent of Republicans chose to filibuster," he said.
That's similar to the excuse Obama himself made at a recent forum on Univision, but the fact is that no serious bill on immigration reform has been offered during the last four years. Pressed on this point, Kaine blamed the threat of a GOP filibuster. "I think we need to change the filibuster rules," he said.
Compromise was the theme of the Kaine campaign's latest ad, released on Monday, which featured former Democratic governor and current senator Mark Warner. "We'll make a great team in Washington," Kaine says as he stands with Warner. And in the debate, Kaine argued Allen was anything but bipartisan.
"My opponent, when he was governor, said his job was to to 'knock Democrats' soft teeth down their whiny throats,'" Kaine said in the debate.
Allen attempted to punch holes in Kaine's bipartisan narrative, however, by focusing on the fact that in 2009, the last year of his term as governor, Kaine was also serving as chairman of the Democratic National Committee at the behest of President Barack Obama.
"How does a governor decide to take on a second job that sends him all over the country, giving partisan speeches, while over 100,000 jobs are lost here in Virginia?" Allen said. "If Tim had given his governorship the full attention, he might have avoided some mistakes like increasing college tutition by over 30 percent or closing rest areas. If he had been listening to the people of Virignia, who are really facing tough times, he might not have proposed raising taxes on working people, working women, seniors, and small business owners, as well as people earning as low as 17 thousand dollars a year."
Kaine shot back against Allen's criticism, saying he thinks he had his "best year" as governor while he was also DNC chair. Kaine also pointed out that when Allen was a U.S. senator, he served as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
"There's a big difference between being chairman of the entire Democratic National Committee and other political jobs," Allen responded.