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Keying off Mitt Romney’s complaint that 47% of Americans pay no federal income tax, David Gregory asked Tim Kaine today whether everyone in Virginia should pay at least something. Kaine, for some unfathomable reason, didn’t respond that he’s not in favor of raising taxes on the middle class, full stop. Instead, he said:

I would be open to a proposal that would have some minimum tax level for everyone.

Why would he say that? Dave Weigel, after noting that Kaine is trying hard to portray himself as a pragmatist after his stint as chair of the DNC, takes a stab at explaining what happened:

So: David Gregory asks the tax question again and again. Kaine’s been programmed to never rule out anything bipartisan. He gives his dumb answer. But I don’t think the dumb answer appreciates how cynical you need to be to win elections in 2012. Look: The House and Senate passed mandatory defense and discretionary spending cuts because Republicans demanded them in exchange for a debt limit hike. A year later, the existence of these cuts are being used against Democrats.

It doesn’t matter if Republicans are talking up the need to decrease the number of lucky duckies. Be more cynical! Telling a skeptic that the “47%” don’t need to pay income taxes may sound partisan, but it’s one of the party’s winningest stances.

This is probably sound advice, politically speaking. Stick to the script. Don’t feel like you have to respond to momentary uproars. Don’t worry if you sound like a hack. Just smile and repeat your talking points. It’s maddening for all of us who write about politics, but it seems to be the path to victory.

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