WASHINGTON (CNN) - Virginia governor Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, acknowledged Friday a "challenging" environment for Democrats in his home state but held out hope that his party's gubernatorial nominee could still rally the voters who helped President Obama win Virginia last November.
Kaine also downplayed anonymous quotes from administration officials about Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds that appeared Friday in The Washington Post. Unnamed administration officials told the paper that if Deeds loses, it will be his own fault for shunning White House advice and not doing enough to embrace President Obama on the campaign trail.
"I tend not to comment on the comments of unnamed sources," Kaine told CNN in a phone interview from Atlanta, where he was meeting with party activists. "We still have more work to do and it's challenging, but I know the president is very interested in the race. The president has been very solicitous."
Kaine said the president, whom he last spoke to about the race on Tuesday night, is "very excited" to make his second appearance for Deeds next week in Norfolk. The Virginia governor, a confidante of Obama since the early day's of his presidential campaign, said he talks to the president "a good bit" about the campaign but said he talks to Deeds more often, "every day, or every other day."
The DNC chair said Deeds' path to victory is clear: "Energizing the president's supporters, energizing those who approve of how Democrats are govering Virginia." Asked if Deeds has done a good enough job doing so in his race against Republican Bob McDonnell, Kaine said Deeds "is working hard to do so" but admitted that Democrats in the state aren't as excited for this election as they were one year ago.
"It is the case that last year was a catharsis for our side," he said. "It was that way nationally and in Virginia. I do think people are seeing stark differences between the two tickets. They are waking up a little late, but they're definitely waking up."
Kaine brushed off the suggestion that the results of the race will reflect on him in his unique role as Virginia governor and chairman of the national party. The DNC has made its largest financial commitment ever for a Virginia gubernatorial election, sending roughly $6 million to the Deeds campaign.
"The most direct reflection on me is what Virginia voters think about me," he said, noting that his approval rating in the state is higher than President Obama's. "It's a very, very challenging time to be governor of any state, especially with the tough decisions with respect to budget, but I think the voters appreciate what we've done."