RICHMOND — Thursday got off to a rocky start for Sen. Barack Obama as police handling the Democratic presidential hopeful’s massive entourage of staff, Secret Service and three press buses along for the ride blocked off commuters for at least 25 minutes.
Traffic backed up along the Powhite Parkway and one man got out of his car to confront a police officer and glare at the buses idling while they waited for Mr. Obama, who was meeting privately with potential vice-presidential pick Gov. Tim Kaine.
Mr. Obama also botched the names of two of the state’s most legendary politicians, gesturing at Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder and Rep. Robert C. Scott, who were sitting next to each other, and calling them “Doug Scott.”
He caught the gaffe quickly and corrected himself while praising the men. He also paid tribute to Mr. Kaine’s wife Anne Holton and her mother, Jinx, a former first lady of Virginia.
But he pointedly did not offer any praise for Mr. Kaine, someone he has previously showered with compliments.
The governor seemed downtrodden at moments during the event, and most Virginia political observers think it’s possible Mr. Obama delivered the bad news Thursday that he is not being selected as a running mate.
In contrast to his events the previous day with former Gov. Mark Warner and Sen. Jim Webb, when he outlined each’s accomplishments, Mr. Obama did not say anything about Mr. Kaine.
At one point he teased that if town hall questioners felt like “the governor is screwing up somehow, you can direct [questions] at him.”
He also avoided an opportunity to defend Mr. Kaine’s record when a voter complained that Republican operative Karl Rove had criticized the city of Richmond, where Mr. Kaine served as mayor before he was elected lieutenant governor in 2001. Instead of saying anything kind about the city or his friend, Mr. Obama derided Mr. Rove as liking “the politics of insult.”
Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican running for governor next year, said the Illinois senator’s continued campaign efforts in Virginia prove “this is a hotly contested state.”
He slammed Mr. Obama as “perhaps the most inexperienced person to run for president of the United States.”