First, Jerry Kilgore dodged the abortion issue at last weekend’s debate. Now his running mates are compounding his problem.

As I suggested yesterday, the Republican ticket appears painfully aware that an anti-abortion stance jeopardizes the support of many moderate members of their party, and hence its election success. Today’s Times-Dispatch story by Jeff Schapiro confirms my suspicions that Kilgore fears the issue could hurt him badly.

“They’re not getting the red meat they want, and this could be the straw that breaks the electoral camel’s back,” political analyst Larry J. Sabato of the University of Virginia said of the Republican Party’s anti-abortion forces.

Kilgore press secretary Tim Murtaugh said that despite the candidate’s silence on a possible abortion ban, his long record of support of limits on the procedure should assure abortion foes that “Jerry has done a lot of good work on their topic.”

Has done a lot of good work on the subject? You talk about waffling!

Another anti-abortion legislator, Del. Richard H. Black, R-Loudoun, said that Kilgore apparently is hesitating to take a stand on a possible abortion ban to avoid turning off women and moderates for whom abortion rights may be a defining issue.

“In the calculus of statewide races, you want to inspire your base without unduly riling your opponent’s base,” Black said. “I think there’s an element of that.”

There may an element of that in Black’s race, too. For Kaine, however, it offers opportunity. Some of the anti-abortion forces have made it clear that they also want to go after contraception. Those stances can hurt the entire ticket. Kilgore’s running mates are now trying to do the political sidestep.

Kilgore’s running mates have taken a tough line against abortion, signaling support for a reversal of Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling allowing abortion. Yesterday, however, both said they will follow the lead of the Supreme Court.

“I will continue to support responsible efforts to protect the right to life, except when it endangers the life of the mother,” said Sen. Bill Bolling of Hanover, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. “If the Supreme Court makes further rulings on the issue of abortion, I will look at each ruling individually and act accordingly.”

Del. Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia Beach, the Republican candidate for attorney general, said that “after careful review” of a Supreme Court decision, “I would act in a manner consistent with my conservative record.”

Who are they kidding?

Kaine is criticized for being “all over the map” by anti-abortionists, who claim his personal opposition to abortion is a political ploy. It is and I wish he wouldn’t use it. Voters shouldn’t care whether abortion is an option for Kaine’s daughter; they want to know the next governor plans for their daughters.
Kaine’s answer has been clear since this weekend. Kilgore’s is not. The lt. Governor should make Kilgore’s indecisiveness the issue. But using the abortion stance as an example can’t hurt Kaine’s standing with moderate Republicans, especially if abortion is the top issue surrounding John Robert’s hearing on his Supreme Court nomination, which could take place just as the gubernatorial race enters the fall home stretch.

UPDATE: The Hampton Roads Daily Press points out the Kilgore hypocrisy on “speculative” issues.