Virginia Republicans have kicked off the new year by redoubling their efforts to link U.S. Senate candidate Timothy M. Kaine to President Obama, pushing to tie Kaine to Obama’s controversial recess appointments last week.

Timothy M. Kaine and President Obama at a news conference in 2009. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Kaine, the former Virginia governor who served as Obama’s handpicked Democratic National Committee chairman, has not shied away from his close connection to the commander-in-chief. The two men are political allies and personal friends, and Kaine — the likely Democratic nominee in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) — has backed Obama on most policy issues.

That hasn’t stopped Republicans — ex-senator George Allen, the frontrunner for the GOP nod — from seeking to either drive a wedge between the two or force Kaine to embrace elements of Obama’s record that are potentially less popular in Virginia.

On Monday, the Republican Party of Virginia organized a conference call with a trio of GOP state legislators to mark the approximate three-year anniversary of Kaine’s becoming DNC chairman. In the course of attacking Kaine for his fealty to Obama, they sought to draw him out on Obama’s most recent controversial step.

On Wednesday, Obama sidestepped Senate opposition by appointing Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and installing three blocked nominees to the National Labor Relations Board. The move drew criticism from Republicans as well as some constitutional experts who contend the president overstepped his ability to make appointments during congressional recesses.

Since Virginia is a “right-to-work” state, Republicans have been looking to paint Kaine as a tool of organized labor, and they seized on the NLRB appointments to continue that argument.

“National democrats seem to be intent upon delivering more payback to the labor unions,” said state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), later adding that he was struck by Kaine’s “stony silence” on labor issues.

“I think he owes it to Virginians to speak loudly and clearly. ... I think the silence speaks volumes,” Obenshain said.

Kaine spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine scoffed at the Republicans’ talking points, calling it “disingenuous” to suggest Kaine was anti-right-to-work.

“Governor Kaine supports Virginia’s right to work law,” Hoffine said. “He upheld the law as Governor and will continue to support states’ rights to establish their own rules on this issue as a Senator. For anyone to claim otherwise is ludicrous. By the standard Republicans are using, we could say George Allen is anti-right-to-work because he didn’t speak out against the 7 NLRB nominees President Bush confirmed in recess appointments.”

Allen campaign spokesman Bill Riggs said Allen had concerns about the circumstances specifically surrounding last week’s recess appointments.

“Our view is that they are of questionable validity and we’d like to see this adjudicated by the courts,” Riggs said.

Republicans have sought before to use Obama administration moves on labor policy against Kaine. Last year, the NLRB asked a court to force Boeing not to open a new production line for its 787 aircraft in South Carolina, contending that the company was moving there from Washington state as retaliation against strikes by workers in the latter state.

Kaine’s campaign said in June that the Democrat generally supported companies’ ability to locate where they choose, but he did not take a specific position on the merits of the Boeing case and whether the NLRB was right to act as it did. Then, as now, the campaign made clear that Kaine supports Virginia’s right-to-work law.

The Boeing dispute was resolved last month when the company reached agreement with its workers on a new labor deal.