Clearly capital punishment is an electoral winner in Virginia. We love to kill people. That makes it all the more heartening that Kaine, while he has finessed the issue, still is willing to engage Kilgore, and best of all, to do so on a moral and religious basis.

“I don’t know the direction that the Kilgore campaign is trying to go with this, but I do find it insulting that someone would challenge my ability to keep an oath,” Kaine said this week. “I’ve been elected to office five times, and I’ve taken five oaths to uphold the law to the best of my ability. I take that very seriously. I take it as seriously as my marriage oath.

“I find it insulting that somebody would challenge me on that, but I can take it. I’m a big boy. I know that it goes with the territory,” Kaine said. “But how many people in Virginia are there who take oaths of office who also have strong religious beliefs? My guess is a lot.

“So are we saying that people with strong religious beliefs who take oaths of office can’t be trusted to mean what they say when they utter that oath? I would hope not,” Kaine said.

In this Augusta Free Press article, two poli sci professors, Quentin Kidd of CNU and usual suspect Stephen Farnsworth of MWU, provide two polar opposite critiques of Kaine’s approach.

“I think Kaine has to be careful of engaging himself in a prolonged values discussion,” Christopher Newport University political scientist Quentin Kidd told the AFP. “If he lets the debate in the gubernatorial race become a discussion of values, he has nothing to gain and everything to lose. His history is a little harmful in this area, in particular on the death-penalty issue. I think he has a lot to lose here by focusing his attention on his position on that as being an issue of faith.”

That the Kaine camp seems to be willing to take the issue on this early in the campaign season is a bit of a surprise, Kidd said.

“The only thing I can assume is that the Kaine campaign is aware of this and is aware of the problems that could emerge from a discussion of this and has decided that it needs to take them on. I would also assume, though, that the Kilgore campaign is aware of the repercussions of pushing this issue into the forefront as well. Looking at both of those assumptions, I can’t see where Tim Kaine comes out on top in the end,” Kidd said.

“If he lets the debate in the gubernatorial race become a discussion of values, he has nothing to gain and everything to lose.” Kidd couldn’t be more wrong here. It’s that approach that has conceded values to the right, leaving the left to be portrayed as lacking any values. I much prefer Farnsworth’s analysis.

“Looking back at last year’s campaign, where the Kerry campaign made a key mistake was when it decided not to speak more to the issue of values than it did,” Farnsworth told the AFP.

“The Bible offers up more material on the moral-values front than what it has to say, for example, about the issue of gay marriage,” Farnsworth said. “There are numerous passages related to social justice and efforts to eliminate poverty and promote peace and that sort of thing that speak to the values held by many Democrats, but those issues weren’t brought up. There are opportunities for Democrats to speak to issues of faith, but it tends to be Republican candidates who speak to those issues while Democrats do not.

“Tim Kaine, from all indications, seems to have learned from John Kerry’s example. He has been, to date, much more public with his feelings on faith and values issues,” Farnsworth said.

Though I’m far from any expert (and far removed from any religiosity), I’ll bet the Bible has plenty of fodder for progressive stances. I applaud Kaine for engaging Kilgore on this.