Chris Graham | The Deeds juggernaut

I’m supposed to be a pragmatist. I run a business, work as a journalist, help manage the day-to-day operations of a baseball team, help direct a local United Way. You’d think I’d take the same approach to politics. Get me a candidate who can win, ideology be damned.
And yet I was resistant to the idea that Creigh Deeds was the obvious choice to be the Democratic Party nominee for governor. Based on his electability. Moderate-conservative on social issues. A fierce advocate of gun rights who is likely to get the endorsement of the NRA. Silent on GLBT issues. No baggage with ties to the Clintons or Global Crossing or a big brother in Congress who sometimes (oftentimes) gets himself in trouble with the off-the-wall things he can say.

I’ve not been big on electability since 2004 when Democrats nominated the supposedly most eligible and electable John Kerry, whose campaign was so effective that it had Karl Rove thinking permanent Republican majority two years before the whole GOP operation imploded upon itself.

An e-mail from my conservative friend and regular AFP contributor David Reynolds has me reconsidering my blanket stance on electability.

 

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“I know you voted for Terry, but Creigh is the best man for both your party and the Commonwealth. The Deeds victory will force the McDonnell and the GOP to stay on the social and fiscal right and lose the House.

“I say this not because I count Creigh Deeds as a friend, but I say this as a conservative! I will try to make the case why a conservative can vote for a Dem for governor, but not for president. The conservative-liberal split depends on what programs are being discussed, state or federal. A true conservative is one who supports government intervention in those areas which the private sector can not function. That’s education (K-12), public safety, transportation, a friendly business environment and health services for the poor. That is what states do. And that is why this conservative is very comfortable with moving Virginia forward with Democrat Creigh Deeds.”

 

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This counts as wisdom, I think. Deeds’ solid moderate-conservative credentials will force the GOP to move further right to distinguish themselves. David is spot on there. Because they’re going to need to distinguish themselves now that Deeds has his primary victory in the bag. It’s important not just that he won, but that he won by the margin he did. As recently as late last week McAuliffe still had a lead in one of the major polls. The writing seemed to be on the wall by Monday afternoon that Deeds was going to win, but even the polls that had him up in the low double-digits were wrong on the measure of a half.

It’s also important that Deeds won Northern Virginia the way that he did. The conventional wisdom before the primary was that for Deeds to win he would need to rack up raw-vote margins in Southwest, Western Virginia and Southside, hold his own in Richmond and Hampton Roads and then have Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran split NoVa. Had that been what happened, Republicans would have to think that NoVa was in play, but I can’t imagine that they are too confident today considering the winning coalition that Deeds was able to put together.

So Deeds has the GOP outflanked on the issues, and he has them outflanked on geography. Is there anybody out there who thinks that at worst Deeds doesn’t do as well as Mark Warner and Tim Kaine outside the Golden Crescent, and that it might be possible that he could win majorities in Southwest and the Valley and Southside? Democrats have shown that they can win handily in statewide races scoring in the upper 30s to low 40s outside the Crescent. Deeds has an outside shot of winning out this way, and at the least holding serve in NoVa.

But that’s strategy talk. More important is the why as to the appeal of Creigh Deeds to Virginia voters. When a conservative like David Reynolds is on board, and solidly on board at that, I think that’s evidence that we’re looking at a juggernaut in the making.

The only question to me is, Will it be enough to create a wave that changes the majority in the House of Delegates, which will be necessary to give Deeds the chance to do something as governor, as well?

 

– Column by Chris Graham


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