Friday, October 23, 2009

Dead Man Campaigning

Election Day in Virginia is more than a week ago, but you can (apparently) stick a fork in Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds. And if you don't believe us, just ask the Washington Post.

Today's edition of the paper has something of a rarity: an article explaining why Deeds will lose before voters go the polls (emphasis ours). More accurately, the Post claims that Mr. Deeds rejected advice from Mr. Obama's political machine and other top Democrats, setting the stage for a likely electoral defeat in November.

Senior administration officials have expressed frustration with how Democrat R. Creigh Deeds has handled his campaign for governor, refusing early offers of strategic advice and failing to reach out to several key constituencies that helped Obama win Virginia in 2008, they say.

Democratic strategists said that over the summer, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) offered Deeds advice on winning a statewide election. Among other things, Kaine, who is also chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told Deeds that he should lay out more of his own vision and stop attacking Republican Robert F. McDonnell so ferociously. But Deeds did not embrace the advice, according to a national Democratic strategist.

A senior administration official said Deeds badly erred on several fronts, including not doing a better job of coordinating with the White House. "I understood in the beginning why there was some reluctance to run all around the state with Barack Obama," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly about the race. "You don't do that in Virginia. But when you consider the African American turnout that they need, and then when you consider as well they've got a huge problem with surge voters, younger voters, we were just a natural for them."

A second administration official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "Obama, Kaine and others had drawn a road map to victory in Virginia. Deeds chose another

Huh? We're still scratching our heads over that one. Truth is, Mr. Deeds has been following the Obama script, but it's not playing very well in the Old Dominion.

Consider the "attack" factor. While the White House faults Deeds for going negative on his Republican opponent, he was merely following the example of Mr. Obama. In an analysis published last fall (about a month before the Presidential election), the A.C. Nielsen Company found that Obama's ads were just as negative as those of John McCain. So much for post-partisan politics.

Additionally, Mr. Deeds staked out all the "right" positions on the issues. He's pro-abortion; supports big tax increases to pay for new spending programs, and backs President Obama's cap-and-trade scheme. Sounds like an Obama Democrat to us.

Unfortunately, Deeds' stand on environmental and fiscal issues have become political krypton's. Virginians understand that cap-and-trade would kill thousands of jobs in the state's coal mining industry and at the ports in Hampton Roads, where the mineral is shipped around the world. They also realize that Mr. Deeds' other proposals would add thousands more to their annual tax bills, in the midst of an economic recession.

It's also worth noting that Creigh Deeds' polling decline mirrors that of Barrack Obama. Earlier this week, Survey USA released a new poll that shows the Democratic candidate trailing Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell by 19 points. While few observers believe McDonnell will win by that sort of margin, other surveys show him with a consistent lead of six-to-eight points, while Deeds' support craters among independents and other key groups.

To be fair, the Democratic state senator is a plodding candidate and his attacks on McDonnell have absolutely back-fired. With the notable exception of the Washington Post, the region's newspapers have criticized Deeds for his disingenuous and "deceitful" attack ads.

Against that backdrop, it's little wonder that some Democrats are sitting this one out. Former Governor Doug Wilder refused to endorse Deeds and one of Governor Tim Kaine's key fund-raisers (Black Entertainment Television co-founder Sheila Johnson) has signed on with McDonnell.

To their credit, the Post accurately identifies the reason for the early finger-pointing. The Virginia governor's race has become an early referendum on Mr. Obama. and the verdict will be devastating for the White House. No wonder the administration's political team was so anxious to talk to the WaPo and start laying out the blame.

Meanwhile, sources within the Deeds camp claim they've done "almost everything" the White House requested. We can't wait to hear their version of events, now that the Obama team has initiated the blame game. In an effort to protect the Annointed One, Mr. Deeds and his campaign are being thrown under the bus. It will be fascinating to see if they go willingly, or offer their public version of how Mr. Obama (and his policies) helped set the stage for a major electoral setback in Virginia.

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