Wilder rejects White House plea to back Deeds
Doug Wilder is at it again. The unpredictable former Governor of Virginia and Mayor of Richmond told Politico’s Jonathan Martin that he isn’t sure who he plans to back in the 2009 race for his former position. Wilder also said that he couldn’t be convinced to back Creigh Deeds, despite a personal plea from the White House’s Political Director Patrick Gaspard.
According to the Politico article Wilder met with Gaspard for over two hours in Richmond and despite the meeting he appears to be in no hurry to jump into the fray. He even seemed to question Sen. Deeds’ record in this excerpt from the report:
But Wilder, in disclosing the meeting in an interview with POLITICO, made it clear that he remained far from endorsing Deeds and was in no hurry to weigh in on the closely watched race — all the while outlining with his typical brutal candor what he thought some of the party’s challenges were and what was at stake.
On what the former governor called “bread-and-butter issues,” he said of Deeds: “Tell me what the man has done? I haven’t heard it.”
Asked if he thought Deeds may have a problem this fall with African-American voters, Wilder said flatly: “I do.”
He said black voters have no reason at the moment to vote for the nominee and referred to the decision this week of BET co-founder and Democratic donor Sheila Johnson to support GOP nominee Bob McDonnell.
“Many people feel taken for granted and I think that was built into the decision Mrs. Johnson made,” Wilder said.
The former governor could have also been talking about himself.
It is no surprise that Wilder seems unprepared to get behind his fellow Democrat. In past election cycles he has not been afraid to withhold his support until the moment that would bring him the most notoriety. (He waited until a week before election day to endorse Tim Kaine). Wilder caused quite a stir during the democratic primary when he did not endorse anyone, but seemed to be critical of Terry McAuliffe. He also enjoys to flirting with Republicans and has not been shy about his admiration for Republican nominee Bob McDonnell. Wilder does goes to great lengths in the Politico piece to point out that he has never publicly endorsed a Republican.
It is clear from this report, and my own conversations with McDonnell that he is openly courting the first African-American Governor since reconstruction in an effort to draw in moderate and minority voters. This effort is clearly gaining ground as evidence from the support McDonnell received from Shelia Johnson, a prominent African-American businesswoman and the former chair of Kaine’s campaign for Governor.
Meanwhile, this meeting shows just how important the White House views the race for Governor in Virginia. To send someone of Gaspard’s prominence to personally meet with Wilder shows that they want no surprises and are taking nothing for granted. Something Mr. Wilder seems to be well aware of:
“The case that they made is that in Virginia and New Jersey — the two states that are up for election — losing one is bad, but losing both would be devastating.”