Deeds strategy shift continues with African-American push ((Updated with audio from Joe Abbey))
Over the past few days there has been plenty of debate over the direction and leadership of the campaign of democratic candidate for governor, Creigh Deeds. Beginning last week the campaign made several staffing and policy changes that displayed an effort to shake up their state in the polls and excite enthusiasm in the party’s core base.
The shift began last week, when three key new veteran staff members were added or given increased responsibilities. Monica Dixon who has been with the campaign since just before the end of the primary has increased her role in the policy area and Kevin Mack, a long time Deeds staff member was given additional duties as well. The campaign added Mo Elleithee, a veteran of several Virginia campaigns and former aide to Terry McAuliffe.
After the staff shift, the voice and tone of the campaign changed as well. Instead of focusing on jobs and the economy, Deeds made a push to paint his opponent Bob McDonnell as a raging right-winger, by pointing out the specifics of the Republicans long standing pro-life record.
Today brings news that Deeds will begin an effort to expand their reach to yet another important democratic constituency that polls show a clear lack of enthusiasm with, the African-American vote. Deeds has brought on yet another staffer of McAuliffe, to run the African-American press office. Allyson Wilson is a former television journalist from FOX5 in Washington, D.C.. She left TV news to join the McAuliffe campaign during the primary. The Deeds team said that Wilson’s arrival will allow them the opportunity to continue an already aggressive outreach to the African-American community that has featured ads on African-American radio, interviews with media outlets and regular appearances by the candidate at black churches. While no specific policy announcements are planned to reach out to this community the campaign believes that Sen. Deeds has a long record of supporting policies that African-Americans care about.
((After the jump.. the latest on the Joe Abbey power struggle rumors))
Wilson’s entrance brings another staff member from outside the Deeds primary family. This in the wake of a volatile rumor filled blog war between high profile political pundit Larry Sabato and his nemesis Ben Tribbett of NotLarrySabato. Sabato reported early this week that Deeds campaign manager Joe Abbey had been stripped of his authority and that Dixon was made the primary decision maker in the campaign. Tribbett claims that Sabato’s report is without merit and comes from Richmond based politicos with close ties to Deeds, but who are not necessarily supporters of Abbey.
The Deeds campaign vehemently denies the Sabato report and continues to claim that not only is Abbey still the campaign manager, but he is also the primary decision maker. Campaign officials told me yesterday that the new staff members have not been brought in to take responsibility from Abbey, but to supplement his efforts.
Regardless of who is in charge, the fact remains that Deeds campaign has charted a new course. The question is, if this is the correct strategy, did they implement it with enough time to turn things around?
**UPDATE on the “State of the Race”**
Campaign Manager Joe Abbey and Communications strategist Mo Elleithee talked to reporters this afternoon on a conference call where they claimed that their new strategy has Bob McDonnell “reeling”. They said that voters are starting to recognize where McDonnell truly stands on the political spectrum and their attacks are starting to stick.
Meanwhile, in response to a question from Norfolk lefty blogger Vivian Paige, Joe Abbey responded to the Larry Sabato report that he is no longer in charge. The message he was sending: “I’m still the boss”.
Here his response below:
Key quotes by Abbey:
“No surprise, we were a rag-tag army coming out of the primary. And we realized when we came out that we had no money and not a lot of staff.”
“There has been no shake-up. As Creigh likes to say, I am not getting out of this job that easy.”