Virginia is abuzz over rumors that Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine could be asked to deliver the Democratic rebuttal to President Bush’s State of the Union address.
The chatter began after a magazine reporter mentioned Mr. Kaine on a national news program Sunday. Party activists think the rumor has legs.
“Absolutely, I think he probably will be the one to give the rebuttal,” said Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat. “That would be a smart choice. He’s one of the few prominent Democrats not running for president.”
Mr. Moran said a speech delivered by Mr. Kaine would remind Republicans of the Democratic win in Virginia last month. As of yesterday, Mr. Kaine had not been asked to deliver the rebuttal.
Mr. Kaine will only have been governor for a few weeks at most when Mr. Bush delivers the State of the Union. Mr. Kaine will be inaugurated Jan. 14; the date of the annual address has not yet been set.
But Mr. Kaine could be a “new face” to counter Mr. Bush on the war in Iraq, the economy and relief efforts on the Gulf Coast.
At least that’s what Mike Allen, a reporter for Time magazine, apparently thinks.
During a round-table discussion with reporters on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Allen said Democrats were looking for someone to respond to Mr. Bush’s address.
“A lot of people obviously wanted Congressman Murtha,” Mr. Allen said, referring to Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat and a Marine veteran who has called for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
“Democrats have decided that he can’t because he doesn’t speak to everyone,” Mr. Allen said on the news program. “So now I would look for a new face, like Governor-elect Tim Kaine of Virginia to give that response.”
The panel of reporters did not further discuss the matter.
Delacey Skinner, a Kaine spokeswoman, declined to comment on Mr. Kaine’s position on the war and said he is focused on governing in Virginia.
“It would certainly be an honor to address the nation,” she said, adding that Mr. Kaine “has not been asked at this point.”
A Democratic aide involved in the selection process said yesterday the party has not yet asked anyone to deliver the rebuttal. The aide said Democrats are considering a host of options, including someone from the Gulf Coast who was affected by Hurricane Katrina and “people who made a difference in 2005.”
Virginians from both parties think a Kaine speech might be a long shot, but would certainly paint the commonwealth in a positive light.
“If that’s what they want to do, that would be fine,” said House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, Salem Republican. “It’s always nice when Virginia gets attention.”
Rebuttal speeches by the party out of power have been a tradition since 1966.
In recent years, the speeches have been delivered by governors and party leaders, including Democratic Govs. Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Gary Locke of Washington state. In 1995, Republican New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman responded to President Clinton’s address.
Mr. Allen’s comment has sparked reaction in the Old Dominion, with comments on local and national political blogs ranging from encouragement to shock.
Several Virginians suggested they would rather see the rebuttal come from outgoing Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat who is expected to seek the presidency in 2008.