Archive for August 30th, 2009
For the second time in his campaign, democratic candidate for governor, Creigh Deeds is hoping a well placed, heavily read piece in the Washington Post will lead to a turnaround in a struggling campaign.
During his party’s primary, while trailing in a distant third, Deeds picked up the endorsement of the paper of record in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia. The endorsement allowed him to be given a second look from skeptical Northern Virginia voters and led to a burst of momentum that eventually led to a comfortable win.
This time, it is a story, not an editorial, that is giving the Deeds campaign a second burst of life. This story is not even about him, but his opponent, republican Bob McDonnell. The report from the Post’s Amy Gardner outlines a masters thesis written, by the then 34 year old graduate student, that offers a glimpse into the thought process of the young conservative politician. The revelation of the paper, which McDonnell himself pointed the Post news department to, is being heralded by Deeds supporters as the best evidence of their new campaign narrative. For weeks the Deeds’ team has attempted to prove that Bob McDonnell is not a pragmatic centrist concerned first and foremost about jobs and the economy. They have attempted to use McDonnell’s past speeches and selective votes to describe him as a radical social conservative hellbent on pushing that agenda from the Governor’s mansion.
The McDonnell campaign is dismissing the paper as nothing more than an academic exercise from several decades ago, that should not erase an 18 year record of accomplishment. In a lengthy statement on the Post story, McDonnell said that the fact the Deeds campaign is putting so much emphasis on this old paper, shows the campaign is in trouble. “My opponent has no solutions, no ideas, and no vision. Today he has launched yet another divisive attack based in the past,” said McDonnell in a prepared statement. “That’s not what Virginians want to see in these difficult times.”
The impact the discovery could have on the campaign is yet to be seen, but there are some early observations that I will make note of:
*Deeds supporters finally on message– The general election campaign for Creigh Deeds has been characterized by a series of attempts to unify an unsteady ship of democratic support. Poll after poll has shown an enthusiasm gap with core democratic constituencies. Not only is this evident in polling, but leading democratic voices have not been afraid to voice their questions about the direction of the Deeds campaign. While the story has only been out for a few hours, it has clearly unified even the most skeptical democrats. The Deeds team is encouraging its supporters to send the story to everyone they know. For the first time it seems everyone is complying, and without much commentary associated.
* Social agenda validated- Up until this morning, the decision to radically alter the course of the Deeds campaign was having mixed results at best. The polls were not turning around, and newspaper editorials seemed to question the decision to depart from an economic message. While it seems as though the campaign was building up to this crescendo, Deeds campaign staffers told me today that they heard rumblings about the paper, but did not learn the full breathed of it until the story was posted. Expect excerpts of the ad to appear in radio, tv and direct mail ads. In some cases specifically targeting groups that McDonnell was critical of in the thesis.
What to look for going forward:
* Conservative response- Aside from a quote from firebrand Bob Marshall, conservatives seem to be waiting to see how candidate McDonnell responds to the story. If Marshall is to be believed, some members of the right wing are a little concerned that McDonnell is taking them for granted. Aspects of this paper would provide them some solace, but if he dismisses it outright and runs from some of those points it could alienate those supporters.
*Will momentum build?- The Washington Post endorsement during the primary, built the exact amount of momentum at just the right time. The Deeds team was able to build on that to push past to the finish line. This story appears two weeks before labor day, before many people are paying attention. Will this be enough to get democratic activists fired up to help Deeds? Remember, that most polls show Deeds trailing by close to double-digit margins. He needs quite a bit of help to catch up. Public Policy Polling tweeted this evening that “Creigh polled much better today in the wake of the WaPo story than he had Friday and Saturday.” However they said that most of their sample for the latest poll had already been gathered.
Bob McDonnell’s entire statement regarding the Washington Post story can be found after the jump..