A few people have asked my thoughts about why Tim Kaine (D) won the governor’s race in Virginia, even though the Commonwealth is fairly conservative and probably should have been a safe-bet for Jerry Kilgore (R). There are a few reasons, but here are the two biggies:

  1. Warner is Pretty Good—Governor Mark Warner, a centrist Democrat, is surprisingly popular in the state and has been a pretty good governor. Kaine managed to paint himself as the logical successor to Warner, and people bought it (even though Kaine is considered by many to be more ‘liberal’ than Warner).
  2. Kilgore’s Death Penalty Ads—Kilgore ran a pretty negative campaign, but his poll numbers really turned south when he started running his idiotic death penalty ads. First off, running a heavy ad campaign about an issue that doesn’t matter much to most Virginians (compared to transportation and education) was pretty dumb. But these ads weren’t just negative, they were a baseless, over-the-top smear job on an honorable opponent—and the voters knew it. Before the ads, Kilgore was ahead by 7 points. After them, he was behind by 3 (Washington Post polls, 9/6-9 and 10/23-26)

That’s my two cents anyway. I’d love to hear your comments!