TIM KAINE’S TEST OF FAITH….Garance Franke-Ruta commented yesterday on the ads here in the D.C.-area for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine’s campaign, noting that Kaine has responded to attacks on his anti-death penalty position by taking a page out of the GOP playbook and putting his faith–Catholic–front and center. “My faith teaches that life is sacred,” Kaine says in one ad currently running. “That’s why I personally oppose the death penalty.”

I’m actually not thrilled to see Kaine take this ploy to its obvious extreme–hey, back off, man…if you attack my position, you’re attacking my faith. That’s a nasty Republican habit Democrats would do well to stay away from. But it is fascinating to see that Kaine has accomplished something few other Democrats have. His political opponents attack his political stands, and he’s come under his share of scrutiny in the media, but no one questions that his faith is sincere.

That may seem like a simple thing. But the pervasive double standard in politics is that Republicans are assumed to be genuinely religious and Democrats who talk about religion or claim to be religious are just faking it. That puts Democrats in an automatic hole, because before they can even begin to talk about their faith, or explain how it shapes their views, they have to prove that they’re for real. Republicans get to skip straight to step two.

So whether or not you like the fact that Tim Kaine has brought his faith into this Virginia race, it’s remarkable to see a Democratic candidate avoid the “can you name the books of the Bible?” game and concentrate instead on explaining how his faith impacts his politics and why voters should care.

In our October issue, Mark Murray explains how Kaine accomplished this.

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Amy Sullivan is a Chicago-based journalist who has written about religion, politics, and culture as a senior editor for Time, National Journal, and Yahoo. She was an editor at the Washington Monthly from 2004 to 2006.