In today’s Washington Post, reporter Gordon Morse picks up the weak-Kilgore meme in his coverage of the presumed Republican nominee in the Virginia governor’s race, in a whole article completely dedicated to the topic of Kaine’s dominance and Kilgore’s passivity and submission. [On page B08 of the paper — I’ll replace this with a link when I can find it on their website.]
Kilgore is perfectly capable of cooking up a plate to satisfy the Republican red-meat eaters: state-sanctioned prayer, lower taxes, more executions. But when he emerges from the kitchen for a personal appearance, the effect dissipates. Think of a Tennessee version of Mr. Rogers.
Virginia Republicans generally have leaned toward exuberant militants such as now Sen. George Allen and former governor James S. Gilmore. They like the unambiguous point of view, the swagger, the readiness to mix it up and dish it out. In Kilgore, they get more diffidence than defiance. Kilgore is game, but someone must hand him the right script.
Kilgore and Kaine have twice appeared together in Richmond before an annual gathering of Associated Press editors and reporters. In both instances, Kaine was the cagey aggressor and Kilgore the befuddled victim.
This is perfect. Kilgore is cast as feminine (cooking meat for the men, rarely emerging from the kitchen), “Mr. Rogers,” “diffident,” implied as the opposite of a “militant” (read as “man”) like Gilmore and Allen, the “befuddled victim” to presumed Democratic nominee Tim Kaine’s “cagey aggressor.” The whole article continues like this, referring to “Kilgore’s handlers,” “adolescent eye-rolling,” his “fumbling,” “incoherence,” and “sputtering.”
Best of all, when the author talks to Kaine’s campaign manager, Mike Henry, Henry says the perfect thing: he describes Kilgore as “weak.”
Morse has captured the dynamic perfectly and cuttingly, addressing the real matter of Kilgore, which is not how the man talks, but the impression of puffery, overcompensation, passivity, and weakness that he projects, of which his vocal demeanor is merely a cue.
It will be interesting to see what happens from here.