Tim Kaine's 'tax the 47 percent' gaffe: Did he just lose Virginia?

In a key Senate race, the Democrat stumbles badly when asked about Mitt Romney's grumbling over Americans who pay no income taxes

Virginia Senate Candidate Tim Kaine (D) speaks at the Democrat National Convention on Spet. 4
(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Mitt Romney's fellow Republicans have been struggling to distance themselves from the presidential candidate's toxic remark that the "47 percent" of Americans who don't pay federal income taxes expect the government to hand them everything — from "health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it." But in Thursday's Senate debate in Virginia, it was the Democratic candidate, former Gov. Tim Kaine, who got tripped up by Romney's gaffe. When grilled over whether everyone should have to pay federal income taxes, Kaine said he'd be open to a proposal imposing a "minimum tax level for everyone." GOP candidate George Allen pounced, saying that hiking taxes on the poor and middle class is "typical Tim Kaine," and just another example of how tax-and-spend junkies are always "looking to raise taxes." Kaine had been surging in recent polls. But did he just torpedo his chances of winning one of the nation's most important Senate races?

In a word, yes: The Democrats have a simple, effective tax message, says David Weigel at Slate: "Trust us, we only want to tax the rich — as, according to polls, all of you voters do." "Literally no one" — except maybe Michele Bachmann — is seriously proposing a "minimal tax rate to end the great problem of Moocherism." By stupidly endorsing that idea and throwing a winning message under the bus, Kaine has committed "one of the most obvious unforced errors" ever.

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