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PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Kaine's Push for Obama Rolls Into Loudoun

In Leesburg, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine praised Sen. Barack Obama's aspirations for the country, and audience members raised concerns about the economy and war in Iraq.
In Leesburg, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine praised Sen. Barack Obama's aspirations for the country, and audience members raised concerns about the economy and war in Iraq. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
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By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 17, 2008

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine spoke with groups of ardent Barack Obama supporters yesterday in Washington's outer suburbs, stumping for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee at packed town hall meetings, where voters expressed concerns about the economy, U.S. energy policy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kaine (D), who has long supported Obama's run for the presidency, told prospective voters that the U.S. senator from Illinois stands for more than change in Washington and praised Obama for his "excellence" in several areas, including his aspirations for the country, judgment and character.

"America, after eight years of the Bush administration, is ready for excellence," Kaine said at a meeting in Leesburg, arguing that Sen. John McCain of Arizona, if elected, would be an extension of the current Republican administration. The partisan crowd, many wearing Obama campaign stickers, cheered loudly.

The town hall meetings yesterday were Kaine's first big push for Obama in relation to the November election, which could hinge on such states as Virginia. Democrats consider Virginia, which has been a Republican stronghold in presidential elections for decades, important to vaulting Obama to the White House. Kaine said yesterday that if Obama can take the state, "there is no path for John McCain" to get enough electoral votes to win.

Kaine has long been mentioned in the discussion about possible Obama running mates, but it appeared yesterday that Kaine has all but written off the possibility. When asked whether he would accept such a role if offered, Kaine said he would not turn it down.

"It's been very flattering to be mentioned," Kaine said, noting that he was an early Obama supporter and that Virginia is an important state. "I don't have any illusions about it. . . . I don't think that's likely to happen."

The Leesburg meeting highlighted the concerns of many Northern Virginians, as members of the audience asked questions about the faltering economy, transportation infrastructure, education and national security. Kaine said Obama has a plan to get the country back on its feet and heading in the right direction, focusing on tax cuts for middle-income Americans, education tax credits and a "comprehensive" energy policy that would invest heavily in alternative energy sources.

On infrastructure, Kaine said Obama plans to invest $50 billion in the nation's roads, rails, airports and public transportation to boost the economy and to create jobs.

"Right now, we're spending more effort on figuring out how to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure than building our own infrastructure," Kaine said, one of many references he made to the Bush administration's work in Iraq.

Danielle Larkin, 24, of Leesburg said she generally votes Republican but attended yesterday's meeting because she is unsure how she wants to vote in the fall. Larkin, who voted for President Bush but also voted for Kaine, said she found hearing Obama's views helpful.

"It was good to hear what he wants to do about infrastructure," said Larkin, a graduate student in social work who says she is deeply concerned about health-care issues. "It made a lot of sense."

The tiny meeting room in Leesburg's Thomas Balch Library could barely hold the 100 people at the event. Although the room was sweltering, audience members posed questions for nearly an hour, and Kaine removed his jacket at one point before talking about the importance of getting out the youth vote in November.

Kaine said voter registration in Virginia has spiked more dramatically this year than in 2004, with 45 percent of new registrants younger than 35. He said he expects a "huge surge in youth voting" this year.

Her three children in tow, Sadia Kullane of Ashburn wanted to hear Kaine address economic issues because her family, like many others, is struggling to deal with rising expenses: "We can't continue to afford this; we need a change."

Change, one of Kaine's messages, also centered on the issue of reputation. He said that the country has suffered greatly in international diplomacy and that Obama would present a "strong and smart" international image.

"The Abu Ghraibs of the world and the Gitmos of the world . . . they show a weakness of example that makes it hard for America to be the good guy," Kaine said, referring to the Iraq prison abuse scandal and the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dennis Brogan, 64, of Leesburg said that this is the first presidential campaign in which he has been involved and that he attended the meeting to help "show support."

"I really feel that we have to do everything we can to get Obama elected," Brogan said, echoing the strong support of the Democratic crowd. "The country needs new leadership. He's the first breath of fresh air in a long time."


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