Voters in Washington's outer suburbs rejected him four years ago, but yesterday Virginia Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine was back trying to improve his score.
Now running for governor, the Democrat crisscrossed eastern Loudoun County in a Winnebago, stopping at a retirement community in Lansdowne, walking the streets of Leesburg and working a crowd at an Irish pub in Sterling.
In his speeches, Kaine aligned himself with Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) and touted the importance of education and the state's landmark 2004 budget. He said his chief rival, Republican Jerry W. Kilgore, would pull Virginia backward.
Though he has been lieutenant governor for more than three years, he spent much of the day talking as if he were introducing himself to voters for the first time.
"A good way to get to know somebody is to know their heroes," Kaine told a group of Democrats in Leisure World of Virginia.
He has three, he told them: his father, a metal-shop owner who taught him the values of "faith and family and hard work"; the Rev. Jim O'Leary, a missionary in Honduras with whom he worked for a year in the early '80s; and his father-in-law, former Republican governor A. Linwood Holton, who opposed segregation and showed that "you can do things in public life that are noble and important."
Republicans have touted their success in fast-growing exurbs such as Loudoun and Prince William counties.
Kaine called Loudoun and Prince William "places we've got to do better" and attributed Democrats' failures to "not being simple, clear and persuasive. We've not been the marketers."
After noisy applause from about 80 Democrats at O'Faolain's pub in Sterling, Kaine shrugged and said, "You either like me or you've been drinking beer," but then turned more serious about the importance of Loudoun votes, given Democratic losses there.
"You are a real battleground," he said. "You are pivotal, pivotal."
Former attorney general Kilgore spent yesterday morning addressing members of the Association of General Contractors in Loudoun -- as did Kaine, separately -- then spent the day with his family, said spokesman Tim Murtaugh.
Murtaugh also scoffed at Kaine's embrace of Warner's mantle.
"He is much more liberal on the death penalty and Second Amendment rights," Murtaugh said.
The independent candidate in the race, Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. (R-Winchester), addressed a transportation advocacy group in Richmond yesterday morning, attended a wine festival in Powhatan, shook hands in Louisa County and was heading last night to the Rockbridge Regional Fair.
Kaine is clearly taking pains to boost his appeal in Loudoun and the rest of Northern Virginia. In the 2001 race for lieutenant governor, he won 44 percent of the vote in Loudoun and 45 percent of the vote in Prince William.
He spent much of yesterday introducing himself to strangers on the street and in barbershops, restaurants and a farmers market.
He confronted people, saying, "Can I say hello, sir?" "Can I say hey? -- quick?"
"Most people react like they've just met the guy who does the weather on the TV -- 'Hey, that was pretty neat,' " Kaine said, back on the Winnebago.
Some analysts say such events have little impact -- unless they are televised -- and yesterday's wasn't. But for Beth and Bob Batarla, strolling through the farmers market in Loudoun with their 11-month-old son, the stranger's approach was persuasive.
"He actually stopped us and said, 'Hi, I'm lieutenant governor.' That's really cool," said Bob Batarla, 31, a Bush voter in 2004. "That goes miles with me."