Rhetoric heats up ahead of Deeds/McDonnell forum in Richmond
With a race that is now officially competitive and a calendar that is slipping away, the two candidates for governor of Virginia will come to Richmond today against the backdrop of increasingly bitter rhetoric. Republican Bob McDonnell and Democrat Creigh Deeds will both appear at a forum hosted by Virginia Union University Tuesday night. The event itself has already brought with it, a little bit of controversy.
The McDonnell camp, which has been perpetually frustrated by the fact that the Deeds team has only agreed to a limited number of debates, claims that late Friday, the Democrat officially requested that appearances by both candidates be held at separate times. While this forum was never intended to be true debate, it was billed as a “joint appearance” by the candidates. The McDonnell campaign believed that meant both candidates would appear on stage together, but speak and take questions at different times.
The new format will now feature both candidates, but they will never share the stage together. McDonnell’s staff released a statement that said that the candidate agreed to the format change to ensure that the “long scheduled event would still take place.” I asked the Deeds campaign for their side of this story, but did not receive a response.
The Deeds campaign has a different perspective about the negotiations leading up to this evening’s event. According to spokesman Jared Leopold, while the forum itself was agreed to several weeks ago the specific format was not finalized until last Friday. He said that at no time did Deeds back away from a format that both campaigns had previously agreed to. Leopold said that Deeds is very much “looking forward to discussing the important issues that will be raised at the event.”
With this change to the schedule that leaves only two more opportunities where the candidates will appear at the same time. The two upcoming events are expected to be televised to a wide audience. On October 12th there will be a debate in Richmond and there will be one final debate on October 20th in Roanoke. In the days ahead, we will unveil some information about our special coverage plans for both debates.
But while the Deeds campaign is bobbing and weaving when it comes to public appearances, the Democratic campaign is going full board with an aggressive and direct media campaign that is specifically designed to tie Bob McDonnell’s legislative record to his controversial masters thesis. The Deeds team released three different television ads that make the effort to show that what McDonnell wrote is exactly what he believes.
Buoyed by polls that show the race a virtual tie, the democrats believe the paper is what has got them back into the race and they believe that momentum is only growing. On Monday they pointed reporters to this report yesterday by Washington Post, national political blogger Chris Cillizza who made the case that “54” was the most important number in politics. What is 54? The percentage of Virginians who haven’t heard anything about the McDonnell paper. Cillizza and the Deeds team believe that indicates that they have shrunk the gap without a very large number of Virginians who have yet to even learn about McDonnell’s biggest liability.
Details on tonight’s event at Virginia Union University can be found after the jump…
Gubernatorial Community Forum at Virginia Union University
Sponsored by: Radio One Inc., the Chesterfield Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the Rho Eta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and the Richmond Crusade for Voters in partnership with Virginia Union University.
When: 6:15pm Tuesday
Where: Coburn Hall 1500 N. Lombardy Street
Virginia Union University