Deeds statement signals … something

The Creigh Deeds campaign is reading something. That I think is clear with the slight shift in strategy signaled in the closing statement that Deeds delivered in Sunday’s Democratic Party gubernatorial debate in Williamsburg.
“Our party will no longer be the party of the middle class if our nominee for governor is beholden to Donald Trump or Wall Street executives or to tainted defense contractors who have received millions in earmarks from an older brother in Congress. We have lost our way if we allow the Wall Street culture or the corrupt political establishment to dictate our agenda for the next four years,” Deeds said, taking shots at rivals Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran on campaign contributions.

Deeds is famously trailing McAuliffe and Moran in the money race – raising $2.16 million through the end of the first quarter of 2009 to Moran’s $2.95 million and McAuliffe’s $5.16 million. But even so, the polls have the three-way race tight as a tick, with only a few percentage points separating the candidates and many expected primary voters still undecided.

The Deeds strategy up to Sunday had been to basically lay low and let Moran and McAuliffe beat each other senseless, with Moran doing most of the club swinging in the direction of McAuliffe, along with a cadre of liberal bloggers who are backing one or the other of the Deeds and Moran efforts taking their own shots at McAuliffe as well. I had talked about strategy with a Deeds campaign official a few weeks ago and got the sense that the campaign was content to let Moran and McAuliffe go at it with the idea that Deeds could stay above the fray, one, and two sit back and let Moran and McAuliffe split votes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads while Deeds focused his energies on building winning majorities and pluralities in Southside, Southwest and the Valley that could lead to victory for the Deeds side on Primary Day.

I’m wondering if this closing statement signals a new understanding of where the primary race is going from the Deeds camp. I think this has to be the case, or at least had better be, because there’s no turning back now that this new approach is out there.

And I think it probably represents a smart read of the race if this is what is going on. I was never convinced that the idea of letting McAuliffe and Moran have the Crescent so Deeds could win The Rest of Virginia and thus win the primary was a sound one. Think about it – isn’t that pretty much what Republicans have been reduced to doing the past eight years? And what has happened to them in general elections since ’01?

Democratic primary turnout is going to be abysmal in Southside, Southwest and the Valley just by virtue of the politics of those regions. So Deeds could theoretically roll up big majorities in The Rest of Virginia and still not get the raw vote totals he would need to counter the raw vote totals of whoever wins the Crescent between McAuliffe and Moran to have his winning coalition.

The gamble is that Deeds could be risking losing supporters in The Rest of Virginia and the Crescent who had liked his no-frills, no-attacks campaign to try to gain support among voter bases in the Crescent that have decided that the race is between McAuliffe and Moran.

This is what makes politics fun, of course. It’s not a science at all, despite what they try to tell you in school.

 

– Story by Chris Graham


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