Tales from the Trail

Fan-in-chief Obama draws popular basketball coach for Virginia rally

President Barack Obama’s big re-election campaign rally in Virginia on Saturday will feature a speaker who could be the most popular man in the battleground state.

It’s not a politician, like Tim Kaine, the former governor now running for the U.S. Senate, who will also be at Virginia Commonwealth University for the event. Two other Democratic Virginia politicians, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb, will not be there.

It is Shaka Smart, VCU’s basketball coach, who will host the rally before Obama speaks.  

Smart is likely to be the event’s biggest draw – after the president and first lady Michelle Obama. The charismatic coach is hugely popular for leading the VCU Rams to unexpected success on the basketball court, and for staying at the school when bigger programs came calling. Smart, who is making $1.2 million a year at VCU, earlier this year turned down a $2.6 million a year contract to coach at the University of Illinois — incidentally in Obama’s home state.

Obama is a huge basketball fan who cheers for his hometown Chicago Bulls and took British Prime Minister David Cameron to the NCAA college basketball tournament in March.

Republican, Democratic party chiefs see victory in battle for the House

In dueling appearances on the Sunday morning news shows, the heads of the Democratic and Republican parties made the same  prediction — After the Nov. 2 elections, our guys will control the House.

mike_sarahRepublican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says his party’s going into the final campaign stretch on a winning combination of momentum, excitement and energy.

“There is a vibration out here that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, Steele said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Congress bracing for anti-incumbent anger among voters

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By the look of things, the American public just might vote Congress out of office this November – Republican and Democrat alike.

But Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine sounds downright stoic, even as he admits that his own party could lose more than 28 House seats and four Senate seats.

Kaine says Democrats must accept voter anger as a fact of life in an economy that is recovering only slowly from the worst recession since the 1930s.

The First Draft: Independents Day

Day-after chatter focused on how independent voters were pivotal in helping drive Republicans to victory in the New Jersey and Virginia governor races.

“The independent voter today is the keystone,” a very happy chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, said on CNN.

“And if you don’t have a message for them, if you don’t have something to say, they’ll let you know by going with the other team or staying out of it altogether. Last night they came home to the GOP,” he said. After repeated TV appearances since last night’s results, Steele is holding a press conference at 10 a.m.

Virginia shakes off Obama blue, returns to red roots

Pundits always use sports analogies for politics, we’re thinking of trying something different — a hair color analogy.

Virginia returned to its red roots tonight after an impetuous experiment last year with blue, the state’s political color of a generation ago. MONACO/

OK maybe it doesn’t work as well. To put it more simply, the Republicans won the governor’s race in Virginia. That was in contrast to last year when Barack Obama captured the state which voted Democrat in a presidential election for the first time since 1964.

Paint Texas blue? Kaine won’t guarantee it

WASHINGTON – New Democratic Party head Tim Kaine wants to continue to win territory from Republicans, but he’s not ready to guarantee victory in George W. Bush’s home state.

As he took control of the Democratic National Committee from outgoing chairman Howard Dean on Wednesday, Kaine said he would continue Dean’s “50 State Strategy” to win votes in conservative places like Idaho and Utah.

“We will never again be a party that writes off states or regions or people,” Kaine said. “The 50 state strategy is now and forever what Democrats do.”

Kaine introduces Obama, spurring VP talk

RICHMOND, VA. – Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine  introduced Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama at a townhall event on Thursday, spurring the latest flurry of speculation about whether an announcement was imminent on Obama’s running-mate pick.
    
Kaine, along with Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, obamakaine.jpgare thought to be among the finalists to become Obama’s vice presidential running-mate.
 
Obama and Kaine appeared together at an event on the economy at a community college in Chester, Virginia. It was part of a two-and-a-half day bus tour through the state.
 
Further stoking media interest in Kaine was a visit by him to Obama’s hotel in Richmond on Thursday morning.
 
But Obama’s campaign played down the significance of that.
 
“They’re just riding over to the event together,  pretty standard fare,” said Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
 
After meeting for 15 minutes with Obama at the hotel, Kaine walked out with him. Pressed by a reporter about the VP talks,  he said, “I’m going to let the campaign speak for the campaign.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage. 

Photo credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria (Barack Obama and Tim Kaine wave to supporters in picture taken February 9)