Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Democrats haven't given up on Virginia, just yet
Radio ads, rallies and appearances by bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley will target rural voters.
Democratic officials said radio advertisements, rallies and a series of appearances by bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley will be part of a final-week pitch to swing voters in predominantly rural parts of the state, especially those that have struggled with job losses and other economic hardships. Republicans countered that Kerry's positions on a litany of hot-button issues will repel rural voters and keep them behind President Bush. Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, Bush's Virginia campaign chairman, called the Democratic effort "an October masquerade."
"That had to be some strategy meeting that convinced the Kerry team that they could win rural Virginia," said Kilgore, a Scott County native and probable Republican nominee for governor in 2005.
No Democratic presidential candidate has carried Virginia since 1964. Kerry has spent more than $2 million in the state since securing the party's nomination, with much of that amount going toward television ads that aired throughout the summer. But the campaign moved about two-thirds of its Virginia field staff to more competitive states last month, a sign that Kerry had effectively conceded the Old Dominion's 13 electoral votes to Bush.
The Kerry campaign's decision to steer another $50,000 to Virginia in the campaign's closing days may not amount to much. But Larry Framme, Kerry's Virginia campaign chairman, insisted the Democrat has not surrendered the state.
"We still have over 10 paid staffers, which is 10 times as many as we've had [for presidential races] in the last several years," said Framme, the former state Democratic chairman.
Framme would not disclose details about the ads, which will begin airing today. Because of campaign finance restrictions, the ads will promote Democratic candidates but not Kerry specifically. The ads will be just part of the Democratic campaign effort in Southwest and Southside Virginia during the closing days, party officials said.
Stanley, who played a fund-raising concert in Richmond last week, will visit Democratic headquarters in Danville, Martinsville, Roanoke and Lynchburg on Thursday, a Democratic spokeswoman said. Gov. Mark Warner also will hit Southwest Virginia on Saturday to campaign with Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Abingdon.
Kilgore also will campaign throughout the region this weekend, beginning with a Friday rally in Roanoke with Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, and Kevin Triplett, Boucher's GOP challenger.
In a press conference, Kilgore said Virginia's rural areas will be the key to a "comfortable" win for Bush in Virginia. Kilgore said Kerry's votes for tax increase and gun control legislation and against a federal ban on so-called "partial-birth" abortion procedures will turn off rural voters. Kilgore also criticized Kerry and vice presidential candidate John Edwards for missing a recent U.S. Senate vote on a federal buyout for tobacco farmers. Bush initially opposed the legislation, but signed it into law last week. Kerry and Edwards have supported the buyout.
"John Kerry and rural Virginia - sort of like caviar and pork rinds," Kilgore said. "Some things just don't go together. He can run all the ads he wants to, but he can't hide from his liberal Senate record."
In a meeting with reporters Tuesday, Framme blasted Bush's record on rural issues and criticized Kilgore for mocking Kerry's overtures to rural voters.
"Why only criticism?" Framme said. "Because when it comes to rural economic recovery, George Bush is as lost as the 400 tons of explosives in Iraq."
Framme criticized Bush for attempting to slash the budget for the Appalachian Regional Commission and he blamed the president for rising health insurance costs and manufacturing job losses.
"That's not funny, and Jerry Kilgore is not funny when it comes to those issues," Framme said.
Framme said the fact that Kilgore called a press conference in reaction to a $50,000 media buy indicates "how deeply concerned they are about this race in Virginia and they should be."
Bush won Virginia by 8 percentage points in 2000. A poll commissioned by Virginia news organizations last month had the president leading Kerry by 6 points.