Steve Jarding, Warner's campaign manager in 2001 and now a professor of politics at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, said Tuesday's vote should not threaten Kaine's effort.
People in many states vote differently for president and governor. New York, California, Massachusetts and Maryland are among the most reliable Democratic states in presidential elections. Yet all have Republican governors.
And in Virginia, which holds gubernatorial elections the year after presidential contests, there is a decades-long history of choosing a Republican president one year and a Democratic governor the next. It happened in 1980-81, 1984-85, 1988-89 and in 2000-01.
"A Democrat can win in Virginia," Jarding said. "There's a blueprint out there to make it work. Tim Kaine's going to figure out, 'Here's the message I take to Virginia.' He's going to make a case. Jerry Kilgore's going to do the same thing. Whoever's best at crafting that message and making the case probably is going to be the guy who's successful."
The message battle already has begun. In a strategy memo sent yesterday to top state Republicans, Hutcheson wrote that the Bush campaign machine, which will now morph into the Kilgore machine, is "battle tested and well-prepared."
"The traditional formula for a Democrat win statewide looks unlikely at best in 2005," he said.
But even some Republicans said their party should not take a Kilgore victory for granted. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), a longtime Fairfax County politician and an expert political strategist, said GOP disagreements during this year's battle over tax increases will "reappear with a vengeance" during next year's campaigns.
And he said the Republicans will be forced to fight the 2005 governor's race partly on turf that Warner and Kaine have defended successfully: the financial integrity of the state government.
"Virginia is uphill for Democrats," Davis said. "To win as a Democrat in Virginia, you can't be average. That's their burden. But it's a different dynamic [than the presidential race]. A state election is held on state issues. Where is the state fiscally? Do they like Mark Warner?"