In Virginia, the Advantage Goes to Deeds
The first post-primary poll in Virginia, from Rasmussen, gave Democrat Creigh Deeds a 47-to-41 percent lead over showed over Republican Bob McDonnell. That’s a huge improvement for Deeds from a Rasmussen poll taken in April, which showed McDonnell ahead of him by 45 percent to 30 percent.
It’s only one poll, and no doubt Deeds is getting a nice bounce from his huge victory on Tuesday. But there are reasons to believe that Deeds, not McDonnelll, should now be viewed as the favorite in this race.
On primary night, Deeds thanked his opponents, Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran, for making him a stronger candidate. The biggest favor they may have done Deeds is to give him a chance to introduce himself to Northern Virginia. After The Washington Post endorsed Deeds, money began flowing into his campaign and he was matching McAuliffe almost ad-for-ad in the Washington media market. Besides touting the Post endorsement, the ads pointed to two issues likely to help Deeds in D.C.’s Virginia suburbs: his support for abortion rights and his emphasis on education. The Post endorsement itself highlighted the biggest issue in the D.C. region, transportation, and it got a lot of play in Deeds’s ads.
The northern suburbs are the key for Deeds this time, just as they were key to Deeds’s 323 vote loss to McDonnell in the Attorney General’s race four years ago. In 2005, now-Gov. Tim Kaine carried the four big northern Virginia counties (Arlington, Fairfax, Loudon and Prince William) by 93,791 votes over Republican Jerry Kilgore. Deeds’s margin over McDonnell in the four counties was only 63,569. Those 30,222 votes were the difference between victory and defeat. If Deeds can hold his vote in the rest of the state from four years ago and perform better in the D.C. suburbs, he wins.
Now, thanks to the primary and all his advertising, Deeds is a known quantity in the four counties, and he carried all four over McAuliffe and Moran. Moreover, there may be more Democratic votes to be had in those counties than there were in 2005. In the 2006 U.S. Senate race, Jim Webb won by a far, far smaller margin statewide than Kaine had a year earlier, but he came out of the big four counties with a margin of 101,770 votes.
Yes, there is a difference between Virginians who vote in state races and the ones Virginia politicians call “federal voters,” who vote only in elections for president, the U.S. Senate and the House. Deeds will need some of those federal voters this fall. That’s one reason he went right after George W. Bush in his election night speech. Nationalizing the race will probably be helpful to Deeds in northern Virginia -- assuming that President Obama maintains a reasonable level of popularity.
It’s thus not surprising that one of Deeds’s first post-primary events is in the northern suburban heartland: a stop on Friday afternoon at the Silver Diner in Arlington with Sen. Mark Warner. Voters have already heard a lot in the primary about Deeds standing in the “Warner-Kaine tradition.” They will hear a lot more.
The other striking aspect of the primary vote is how overwhelmingly popular Deeds is in his own district and the area around it. He has reach in Republican areas of the state. Some of the primary returns were so overwhelmingly pro-Deeds that they looked the results once produced in Soviet elections. In his home County of Bath, Deeds got 800 votes to 25 for McAuliffe and 4 for Moran. In Covington, an independent city nearby, Deeds had 568 votes to 14 for McAuliffe and 4 for Moran. The local affection for Deeds was palpable at his victory party in Charlottesville. Of course the people there liked Deeds -- it was his party, after all. But I’ve attended many such events over the years, and at this one, the ties to the candidate seemed especially personal and strong.
Lastly, David Dixon, Deeds’s media consultant, argues that Deeds may have the easier task when it comes to self-presentation. Dixon says McDonnell is a very conservative politician who has to remake himself as a moderate. Deeds already is a moderate, so he can present himself as he is. My hunch: the Deeds campaign will move quickly to define McDonnell as a Pat Robertson sort of Republican before McDonnell can establish himself as a moderate.
Being the favorite doesn’t make Deeds the automatic winner. Indeed, being the underdog became Deeds, and he probably doesn’t want to be thought of as the front-runner. Democrats have been in power in Virginia for eight years, and it’s been very hard for a party to win three gubernatorial elections in a row. A severe dent to Obama’s popularity could hurt Deeds. And attacks on taxes, which we are sure to hear a lot of from McDonnell, can be especially effective in an economic downturn, when voters feel financially pressed.
Still, a race in which McDonnell seemed to have the advantage only a few weeks ago now tilts toward Deeds.
Posted by: fairfaxvoter | June 12, 2009 8:11 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: fairfaxvoter | June 12, 2009 8:12 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: jheath531 | June 12, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: potrafka | June 12, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: sbaker1 | June 12, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: NeverLeft | June 12, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: sensible | June 12, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: SMWE357 | June 13, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: lb99999999 | June 13, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.