WASHINGTON – Though Virginia clearly is a "red" state, supporting President Bush over Sen. John Kerry by an 8 percent margin in November 2004, voters in the Commonwealth elected a Democratic governor in 2001 and could do so again this year.
The choice this time looks to come down to the state's former Republican attorney general, Jerry Kilgore (search), or Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine (search), who has jokingly referred to himself as the current governor's little brother.
Kaine said he appreciates the appellation as well as the support from term-limited Democratic Gov. Mark Warner (search), a Democratic presidential prospect in 2008, but says it's not enough.
"It's not enough for me to be Mark Warner's little brother," Kaine recently told a Northern Virginia radio station. "People have to get to know me and see that I stand on my own two feet and I'll govern just as well as he has."
Kaine is trying to connect with the Commonwealth's conservatives by talking about his religious beliefs.
"I'm a Catholic. I was a missionary. I think life is sacred. I'm against the death penalty and abortion. I'm not apologizing for my religious view and I'm not changing it for politics," he said.
Social issues are likely to play a large part in this November's election. As has happened many times, if Virginians have liked the outgoing governor they have been willing to support the nominee of his party. Warner has been viewed as a successful centrist. But one political analyst told FOX News that Kaine will have a sales job on his hands.
"The difficulty for the Democrat is going to be convincing people that he is also a centrist, that he's not too far to the left to continue Mark Warner's work," said University of Virginia's Center for Politics (search) head Larry Sabato.
Kilgore, who is leading the quest for the Republican nomination, is supported by Virginia's two well-liked Republican U.S. senators, John Warner and George Allen. Kilgore, a conservative in a center-right state, is campaigning as a candidate of the common man.
"I may not always speak as quickly as a trial lawyer. My accent may only be rivaled by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But I tell you this, I would rather be a workhorse than a show horse," Kilgore said.
Kilgore stresses that he can work with centrist Democrats in the state but makes it clear that he does not view his opponent as one of them.
"Not every Democrat shares the extreme liberal values of John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine," Kilgore told his audience at a recent campaign event.
Most experts say the edge normally would go to Kilgore, but he must first solve a problem in the form of "cantankerous" state Sen. Russ Potts (search). Potts, a liberal Republican, is running as an independent in the race.
"If Potts can raise enough money, which is the big question, he could have some very interesting TV ads. He could end up getting a surprising percentage of the vote," Sabato said.
The thinking is that Potts, who supported Gov. Warner's tax increase but still is in the Republican camp, likely could take most of the votes from Kilgore than from Kaine. Early polls have Kilgore in the lead but most predict that those polls will tighten dramatically over time and that the race will go down to the wire.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Brian Wilson.