I just got off a press conference call with Kaine campaign manager Mike Henry and senior advisor Mo Elleithee, regarding "the state of the U.S. Senate race...Tim Kaine's strong first quarter fundraising numbers, challenges ahead for the Republican contenders, and [a preview of] upcoming economic announcements from the campaign." Here are some highlights from the call; I've put quote marks where I feel like I got almost exactly what the person was saying.
*According to Mike Henry, this is likely to be a very close race that comes down to the wire, one of the closest races we've ever seen in Virginia.
*To date, Mike Henry feels that the campaign has "lots to be proud of," including building a "strong financial foundation," a talent-filled organization, "hustling around the state to every nook and cranny" (traveled over 30,000 miles so far), and making sure that every voter/every locality counts.
*The campaign used its highly successful petition drive (30,000 signatures) "as an organizing tool," and to get people out in the field "talking to real voters."
*The campaign's been building its infrastructure, and particularly its volunteer corps -- made over 20,000 phone calls to voters just this quarter alone.
*The campaign has been doing roundtables around the state, with different groups of people, from different walks of life (vets, business people from NOVA, people from rural areas, small biz owners).
*The campaign is "very proud of the fiscal foundation we've built," running a "lean and mean campaign" ("We watch very penny here"). Also, excited about the campaign's 19,000+ donors, including 14,000 who have donated $200 or less.
*The campaign is focusing on a grassroots effort and a "great field program," but also planning to have top-notch messaging on paid TV.
*The campaign has offices in Richmond and Fairfax County, will start moving into other places as well. The goal is to reach out to people on 1-to-1 basis, making the case for Tim Kaine.
*Mo Elleithee said he's very pleased that Tim Kaine has been certified as the Democratic nominee, congratulated the 4 candidates on the Republican side "as it's not easy to get on the ballot in Virginia." *Mo expects that Republicans "will have a spirited primary campaign" highlighted by three RPV debates that will serve to "amplify the differences and divisions" between Tim Kaine - his record, his approach - and that of the Republican candidates. *Mo expects that what we'll hear from Republicans is two main things. First, a continued focus on social issues (e.g., Allen's first piece of paid mail highlighted his anti-choice agenda; Bob Marshall was the sponsor of the "personhood" bill), with the candidates fighting it out over who is THE most socially conservative.
*This is not, Mo believes, where George Allen wanted to find himself, which is why he's been "going to extreme measures to avoid talking about more controversial measures like the ultrasound bill".
*Second, Republicans will be having a "very rigorous debate on fiscal issues, a debate we're very anxious to engage in," with Allen's opponents attacking him for his record of reckless spending, turning a record surplus into a record deficit when he was in the Senate. Mo believes this is a meme that will continue to dog Allen throughout the Republican primary and in the general election, if he's the nominee.
*The Kaine campaign is "very eager to discuss the two candidates' fiscal records."
*We've already seen Jamie Radtke and Bob Marshall winning grassroots, Tea Party straw polls around the state, as people know that Allen's fiscal conservative rhetoric is hollow. *"We're going to sit back and enjoy the show" in the coming weeks as the debates heat up.
*We're also going to continue to drive Tim Kaine's economic vision: growth (including a heavy focus on small business); talent (to be globally competitive, we need to revamp our education system and workforce development policies); and balance (not only a balanced approach to fiscal responsibility and getting deficit under control, which Tim Kaine knows how to do, but also restoring balance to our discourse and to Washington).
*Beginning tomorrow, Kaine will be on an aggressive two-day tour, for part of which he'll be joined by Sen. Warner, where he'll elaborate on these themes and roll out specific proposals and ideas.
*Kaine campaign feels "very good about the dynamics of the race," in that when voters get to measure Tim Kaine versus George Allen or one of the other Republican candidates, it's a major contrast in record - fiscally responsible/forward looking vs. "throwback to the way things were between 2000 and 2006".
*The Kaine campaign also feels very good about its fundraising abilities, about the amount of money they've been able to raise, the grassroots support that helped them get there.
*Still, "when all is said and done, we expect to be outspent in this race" when you factor in all the additional money (already $1.5 million run in this state by Karl Rove's group and US Chamber on ads that most fact checkers have deemed false) pouring in to the state.
*Unfortunately, Allen rejected Kaine's proposal to join him in at least requiring full disclosure of donors to these SuperPACs/outside groups.
*The Kaine campaign feels like it will have the resources to communicate, but "we expect to see more of their ads than ours."
*That's also why the Kaine campaign is focused on building grassroots support and infrastructure, in addition to a "great paid communications strategy."
*The Kaine campaign also feels it has "talented people" and "the best candidate with the best record."
*Tim Kaine has serious concerns with the Ryan budget, and with the "cut cap and balance" pledge that George Allen and others have taken. "What you see there is a very very different approach than the one Tim Kaine has been talking about and will expand on in coming weeks. We've tried those approaches before. We've tried giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and to Big Oil, and it didn't work." Now, they not only want to go back to that, but take it even further. That's not the direction Virginians want to go. They want to see a balanced approach, important investments.
*According to Mo, "We are happy these issues are part of the national dialog now, they provide a clear contrast in our race as well."
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