Has the death penalty put Kaine on a swift boat to defeat?
Shhhhh! Can you hear it? Listen.
Thwack, thwack, thwack ...
Those are the nails in Tim Kaine's campaign coffin.
We've all been kind of waiting around for this gubernatorial campaign to finally be about something and today Kilgore made it about something: the death penalty. He's launched a series of new ads featuring family members of murder victims saying things like: "How could you not think the death penalty was appropriate? That's not justice. When Tim Kaine calls the death penalty murder, I find it offensive." Another person says, "Tim Kaine voluntarily represented the person who murdered my son. He stood with murderers in trying to get 'em off death row."
And never mind that Kaine was court-appointed.
The ad certainly depends on the notion that family members of murder victims have the same so-called "moral authority" both granted and denied (depending on your perspective) Cindy Sheehan as the mother of a slain soldier protesting the Iraq war. But in Virginia, odds are, voters are going to grant that authority.
But this isn't really about the death penalty, per se. It's about politics and timing. It's about the thrust and parry of two campaigns in their last month. Kaine has been forced into a position he hasn't faced too much, of being on his heels and of having to create ads that respond to Kilgore's ads. He is, in effect, on a swift boat to defeat.
His response so far has been dreadful. Vague, meandering. Uh, yes, Hitler deserves the death penalty but only God can grant life and only God can take it away except in kind of rare instances like self -defense or a just war ... Oh, mercy. His basic position is not an untenable one as many people of faith feel the same way and many people who tout their support for a "culture of life" also have a disconnect between their positions on the death penalty and abortion. (Ah-hem! Right, Jerry?)
But as a friend just said to me: "This is Politics 101. Somebody asks you if Hitler deserves the death penalty, you say YES."
You wonder if Kilgore's campaign had this up their sleeve from Day One or whether the debate distilled this issue for them and they seized upon it quickly. It's brilliant either way. And I don't know if Kaine will be able to recover but he's going to need to go back on the attack quickly on the most hot-button issue he can find.
WARNING! WARNING! WOMEN OF VIRGINIA: JERRY KILGORE WILL TAKE AWAY YOUR RIGHT TO CHOOSE! AND HE'LL THROW YOU AND YOUR DOCTOR IN JAIL IF YOU HAVE AN ABORTION! WARNING! WARNING! I'm Tim Kaine and I sponsored this message so that you would forget about the other message.
But if he keeps up his hummina-hummina defense and goes back to talking about Pre-K funding and transportation lock boxes it could be over well before Nov. 8.
Wait. Do you hear it?
That was Jerry Kilgore pulling the sword out of the stone.