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Decision Virginia Archive 8/08- 7/12

Deeds looks to capitalize on McDonnell thesis

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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 story and the paper itself can be found here. Judge for yourself if it fits into the story the Deeds campaign is attempting to tell.

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..


Statement from Bob McDonnell on Washington Post story:

“Creigh Deeds has already made clear that he’d rather talk about divisive issues to try to tear Virginians apart than debate my policy proposals to bring Virginians together to create jobs, improve our schools and roads and make energy more affordable. And he’s made clear he’d rather talk about the past than debate my positive agenda for the future.. So it’s not surprising that today he’s seeking to make an issue of a decades-old academic paper rather than my strong record of bipartisan accomplishment.

“But I know that Virginians will judge me on my 18-year record as a legislator and Attorney General and the specific plans I have laid out for our future – not an academic paper I wrote as a student during the Reagan era and haven’t thought about in years. When I wrote it I was interning on Capitol Hill with the House Republican Policy Committee. I was listening to the debate of the time, and was greatly influenced by both the public discussions I witnessed, and the readings I was doing as a student. The purpose of this decades-old academic paper was to discuss societal changes in the nation in the 1960’s and 1970’s and what government policy could do in regards to them.

“Like everybody, my views on many issues have changed as I have gotten older. When I left the academic world and went into public service my record has been one of proposing innovative ideas, building consensus and getting bipartisan results to improve the lives of Virginians. My views on family policy can best be seen in the historic 1995 welfare reform legislation that I helped author and was chief patron of, and which became a model for the national welfare reform bill signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996. I worked to include child day care in the bill so women would have greater freedom to work. My service in the military, business background and experience in elected office have shaped my approach as a consensus builder who seeks results. Voters can see that in my record as Attorney General. During my time in that statewide office, representing all Virginians, I proposed 105 pieces of legislation and 92 of the measures became law, a 90% success rate. Most of those bills passed with broad bipartisan support, and Creigh Deeds voted for 98% of them.

“As Attorney General I appointed many talented women to senior level positions. I am a father and husband of strong working women. I support hiring and promoting people solely on merit and ability, regardless of race, creed, religion, national origin or sexual orientation. The best evidence of how I will govern is to look at what I have done in office.
My opponent has no solutions, no ideas, and no vision. Today he has launched yet another divisive attack based in the past. That’s not what Virginians want to see in these difficult times. As a candidate for governor, I will continue to talk about job creation and economic development and positive solutions to bring Virginians together to create new jobs and more opportunities in every region of the state.”


Written by Ryan Nobles

August 30, 2009 at 9:49 pm

One Response

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  1. […] independent candidate Gary Reinhardt.  McDonnell has been dogged by the controversy surrounding a graduate thesis that he wrote 20 years ago. Despite a 90 minute press conference call on the topic, the media and […]

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