Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Is Kaine Able to Fend Off a Challenge?

While October 10 is pretty close to the "put up or shut up" point in the 2024 cycle, this week and next are prime time to actually declare. Why? Because a candidate's first quarter of fundraising is often an important indicator of their viability, or lack thereof, and it's better that number reflect 80-90 days of fundraising as opposed to 50 or 30 or 15 days.

So, it's not terribly surprising that yet another heavyweight U.S. Senate candidate jumped in yesterday, as a challenger to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). The new kid on the block is Hung Cao (R), who attracted a lot of attention in Republican circles last year when he made his U.S. House race against Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) far more competitive than expected. Cao lost by just 6 points in 2022; in 2020 Joe Biden outpaced Donald Trump by 18 points among the same group of voters.

Cao is plenty conservative, and would be the first Vietnamese American to serve in the U.S. Senate if elected. He's got a compelling story as someone who came to the U.S. as a refugee, and he's also a long-serving veteran of the U.S. Navy. Being a veteran clearly matters more in some locales than others, and Virginia is one of those where it does seem to be a major selling point, perhaps because the Pentagon and many other military installations are located in the state. It's been a long time since California, for example, sent a veteran to the governor's mansion or to the U.S. Senate. However, as recently as 2010, both Virginia senators and the governor were veterans.

That said, while Cao is a very interesting candidate, he does have a couple of very large hills to climb. There are already several other Republicans running in the Virginia primary, including a close ally of Ron DeSantis. If the Governor has any influence whatsoever over other states, it's going to be in coastal Southern states. And then, assuming Cao makes it through the primary, Kaine is no slouch. He's won statewide four times, once as lieutenant governor, once as governor, and twice for the Senate. And in his last election, Kaine trounced opponent Chris Stewart (R) by 16 points.

In short, this isn't a "race to watch" quite yet. But it could get there, unlike many, many other U.S. Senate races, which might as well be called by the AP right now. (Z)

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