Why are they throwing in the towel?
Interesting piece in the Washington Post from the weekend containing more of the gnashing of the teeth from the summer from the NoVans about the apparent rudderless nature of the Creigh Deeds campaign.
Among the observations in the piece, filed by reporter Roz Helderman, but which otherwise read as a feature column: Deeds is not well known outside of rural Virginia, he’s focusing too much on McDonnell’s social-engineering underpinnings, he’s trying too hard to be like Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and not running his own campaign.
“The problem with Deeds is that he hasn’t defined himself,” said former governor Doug Wilder, the first problem point in the story, quoting Wilder an any kind of reasonable observer on the modern-day Virginia politics scene after his disastrous tenure as the mayor in Richmond, not to mention the train wreck that was his governorship, which was so embattled that it ushered in eight years of Republican rule.
So we have as a starting point the thought that Deeds hasn’t defined himself. Then Helderman takes us to the analysis that actually the problem is that Deeds has defined himself, as the political heir to Warner and Kaine.
To buttress this point, Helderman pulls a quote from Republican opponent Bob McDonnell’s stump speech at the Labor Day Parade in Buena Vista – “He talks a lot about former presidents and former governors. I want to talk about the future of Virginia,” she quotes McDonnell – and then dredges up the oft-quoted political commentator Bob Holsworth, whose contribution to the piece sounds like it was scripted by the McDonnell team. “The dilemma for the Democrats is that it doesn’t seem very responsive to the mood of the moment. It’s as if they’re running the same campaign as in 2001 and 2005 without responding directly to the anxiety out there,” Holsworth tells us.
You’d think that this Deeds guy was a political novice and not an 18-year veteran of the Virginia General Assembly who fell 300 or so votes short of beating McDonnell in their 2005 attorney-general race in spite of being vastly outspent and down 10 points in the polls the weekend before the election – and who surged past well-funded Democratic opponents Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran to win the party nomination for governor this year with more than 50 percent of the vote in the three-way race.
No question about it – Deeds is behind in the polls right now. Just as Kaine was in his race with Jerry Kilgore four years ago. Anybody remember what Kaine did to turn things around in that ’05 governor’s race? He reminded voters that Democrats had been running the state well under Mark Warner. Which is what Deeds is doing now, only that he has a successful four-year run from Kaine to add to his message to voters.
Deeds is a rightful political heir to Warner and Kaine. A solid pragmatist on fiscal issues, Deeds has been on the right side of the battle to keep Virginia moving forward while McDonnell has been one of the cheerleaders for the Party of No, and continues to offer nothing of substance when it comes to his many and varied policy proposals as to how to pay for it all, a typical Republican mistake that Virginia voters have been seeing through since the failed Jim Gilmore administration.
Further, Deeds would be an idiot to run from Warner and Kaine, same as it was about as foolish as you can be for Al Gore to run kicking and screaming from Bill Clinton in 2000 even considering everything the GOP had done to smear Clinton. Warner and Kaine are Clinton without the stains, literally.
It’s still summer for another week. Keep that in mind. Keep in mind as well that most people won’t be paying any attention to the November election until probably mid-October. This isn’t Obama-McCain or Bush-Kerry. We’ll be lucky to have half the electorate knowing who these guys are when the polls open on Nov. 3. The polls today, as we saw in ’05, and ’06, when George Allen was well ahead of Jim Webb in that year’s Senate race on his way to a come-from-ahead defeat, are about as meaningless as Top 25 rankings before the first weekend of the college-football season.
Everything being done by the two campaigns – from McDonnell’s bio pieces offering a vision of him as a family man, to Deeds’ shots at the Achilles heel of the McDonnell effort on social issues – are about setting the stage for the last two weeks of the campaign when folks start looking at the two men and what they would do to lead Virginia for the next four years.
When they did that four years ago, Deeds virtually erased McDonnell’s 10-point lead in the final days and just ran out of time before he could pull off the upset.
We’re at 50 days and counting as of this writing. That’s forever in politics.
Deeds doesn’t need to win the election today or tomorrow. He needs to win it in the two weeks leading up to Nov. 3. The best way to do so is to follow the very strategy that Helderman belittles in her piece: Keep it simple. We’re doing a good job, Warner, Kaine and me, elect me, and we’ll continue doing a good job.
– Column by Chris Graham