- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 18, 2011

RICHMOND — Don’t look for Democrats in fiercely contested Virginia legislative elections to join President Obama as he brings his campaign-style American Jobs Act bus tour to three cities there.

For that matter, don’t expect Tim Kaine, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and Virginia’s governor two years ago, to join his old ally either.

But one statewide elected official will join Mr. Obama: Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, a GOP vice presidential prospect and a sharp, frequent critic of the Obama White House.

Mr. Obama targeted North Carolina and Virginia, both swing states he won in 2008 that are vital to his re-election next year, for his second bus excursion aimed at pressuring Congress to enact pieces of his $447 billion jobs bill.

The president will appear at Greensville County High School in Emporia on Tuesday afternoon, a military base in Hampton Wednesday morning, and at a suburban Richmond firehouse Wednesday afternoon before flying back to Washington.

Republicans say Democrats, particularly Senate incumbents trying to preserve a narrow majority in the Nov. 8 elections, are so afraid to embrace the unpopular president that Mr. Obama changed his Virginia itinerary to avoid stops near targeted Democrats.

A senior Virginia Democrat told the Associated Press on Oct. 7 that the president’s itinerary at the time called for stops in Danville, Charlottesville, Newport News and Fredericksburg.

Virginia GOP Chairman Pat Mullins contends the White House changed course because most of those cities are in or near districts where Democratic incumbents battling for political survival are distancing themselves from the unpopular president.

State Democratic Party spokesman Brian Coy scoffed at Mr. Mullins’ conclusion.

“Really, do you think anybody here has the kind of clout that the president would change his schedule?” Mr. Coy said.

Mr. Kaine was among the first nationally to endorse Mr. Obama’s long-odds campaign in early 2007, was instrumental in helping Mr. Obama become the first Democrat to carry Virginia in a presidential race in 44 years, and later agreed to Mr. Obama’s request to head the Democratic National Committee. In April, Mr. Kaine resigned his DNC post to seek the U.S. Senate seat next year after Democratic Sen. Jim Webb chose not to run for a second term.

But Mr. Kaine won’t accompany Mr. Obama because of “a full schedule of events in Northern Virginia, including events for legislative candidates who are up for election in a couple of weeks, which could not be rescheduled,” Kaine campaign spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said.

Advisers to Mr. Kaine reject assertions that his close ties to Mr. Obama could doom Mr. Kaine’s Senate campaign, and point to recent polls to make their case. Statewide polling the past two months by Quinnipiac University have shown the president’s disapproval in Virginia topping 50 percent. Yet the same poll has shown Mr. Kaine, the likely Democratic nominee, and Republican frontrunner George Allen, a former senator and governor, in a dead heat.

Virginia’s House Minority Leader Ward L. Armstrong has distanced himself from Mr. Obama in a struggle to retain his seat against a Republican incumbent in southwest Virginia that he’s facing because of redistricting.

Last month, Democratic state Sen. Phil Puckett renounced Mr. Obama after his Republican challenger began discrediting him as “Obama’s man in southwest Virginia” and tying him to Mr. Obama’s energy policies which are reviled in coal-mining regions like Puckett’s district. Mr. Puckett said in a telelvision interview he would not support Mr. Obama in 2012.

Meanwhile, Mr. McDonnell announced he would appear with the president at a Wednesday stop in Hampton at a military base for an event advocating expanded employment opportunities for veterans.

The governor, a retired Army colonel, said he is attending because of his interest in veterans issues. His daughter, Jeanine, served in Iraq in 2005-06 with the Army.

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