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The Post Endorsement and Creigh Deeds

Is the Post's endorsement of Creigh Deeds a game-changer in the Virginia governor's race? AP Photo by Steve Helber

Three weeks before the June 6 Democratic primary in Virginia, state Sen. Creigh Deeds' campaign was dead in the water.

Then came the May 22 endorsement of his candidacy from the Washington Post and all that changed.

The Post endorsement turned Deeds from an unknown into a credible candidate in the eyes of crucial northern Virginia voters who were not sold on either of his primary rivals -- former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and state Del. Brian Moran.

(While it may be self-serving for a Washington Post blog to tout the power of a Washington Post endorsement, ask anyone involved in the primary fight what swung the race in Deeds' favor and, to a person, they will say the Post backing. So there.)

Deeds' soared -- winning easily in the three-way contest with 50 percent; he carried Arlington County with 47 percent and Fairfax County with 49.5 percent.

Fast forward four months and Deeds -- again -- finds himself dead (or close to it) in the political water.

Two recent polls shows Deeds trailing former state Attorney General Bob McDonnell (R) by nine and eight points, respectively, and even Democrats acknowledge that Deeds is in trouble.

And, on Sunday, the Post endorsed Deeds over McDonnell -- raising the question of whether the endorsement can be deja vu all over again for the Democrat.

The answer? Probably not.

As we -- and Politico's Jmart -- have written recently, Deeds is running behind where he needs to be in northern Virginia.

In the Washington Post poll, Deeds led McDonnell by only a 51 percent to 46 percent margin -- a far smaller edge than winning Democrats have carried the region by in recent cycles.

Could the Post endorsement have some impact on bringing some wayward northern Virginia Democrats (and even some independents) back into the Deeds camp? Sure.

And, Deeds is doing everything he can to make sure voters know about the endorsement -- getting an ad on television touting it less than 24 hours after it came out.

But, the Post endorsement of Deeds was expected -- if the paper's editorial board had endorsed McDonnell that would have been a big story -- and, referring back to our handy-dandy endorsement hierarchy chart, newspaper endorsements rank in the bottom half in terms of influence particularly in general elections.

Deeds' better chance to rally northern Virginia Democrats behind him will come next Tuesday when President Barack Obama stumps in the region for him.

Still, Post endorsement/Obama visit or not, this contest is an uphill climb for Deeds. It's not unwinnable but he needs some sort of game-changer in the final weeks that he hasn't found just yet.

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 19, 2009; 11:37 AM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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So let me get this straight. Wapo endorses democratic candidate (how surprising!) and then writes an "analysis" about how important the endorsement is? This is some kind of joke right?

Is it any surprise that readers are abandoning the post if this is what passes for journalism?

Posted by: postetc | October 20, 2009 7:13 AM | Report abuse

Deeds spent more than a month vilifying McDonnell as far-right, which he probably is. But Deeds has seemingly failed to lay out a positive vision of his own stewardship, to find a resonant message.

The Washington Post endorsement may have identified the message which Deeds should seize upon. He should seriously consider casting himself as the candidate willing to make tough choices, and to be a "straight-shooter" with the public. At the risk of appropriating Walter Mondale's line from 1984 when he said in effect that "whoever wins this election will have to raise taxes. My opponent won't say that, but I will." Deeds should say there are certain problems which demand resolution and that a possible tax increase is at least on the table as a way to fund the means necessary to resolve the problems. He becomes the "truth-teller," the candidate willing to make tough choices, the candidate willing to display leadership in tough times by doing so.

That may be his last best chance of reinvigorating his campaign, of finding that "game-changer" the Fix has identified as necessary.

Posted by: OHIOCITIZEN | October 19, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Mike. An endorsement isn't a popularity contest. I do pay attention to the endorsements of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Post, the Times, etc. I don't always go with their endorsement, but reading their reasoning is an important step in making up my own mind using as much information as possible.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | October 19, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

The importance of an editorial endorsement, or any endorsement, is not the thumbs-up or thumbs-down. It is the analysis that is used to arrive at that position.

Taxes are never popular. Neither are bad roads, but it is hard to get folks to believe that one will solve the other. I think a politician may be both brave and realistic to call for more taxes. But you can ask Bush 41 how well that works.

With that in mind, I can see how the editorial board may be trying to help the public see that one candidate is telling them the truth and the other is telling them what they want to hear. Good luck with that, WaPo.

Posted by: mikenmidland | October 19, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who votes for a particular candidate in a primary or election based upon the endorsement of any newspaper is lacking indeed in independent judgment.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | October 19, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

If a large criterion for Deeds winning the general election is how well he does in "Northern" Virginia, wouldn't it only stand to reason that this is the one area of the state the Post endorsement would have the most impact? Isn't that the Post's general sphere of influence?

It almost seems like wishful thinking is replacing responsible analysis.

Posted by: ethanquern | October 19, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

The Post already tried to Maccaca McDonnel and it worked for a while but the effect has faded. They put everything they had out there so an endorsement isn't going to do anything. As Chris said the real surprise would have been if the Post had not endorsed the fill in the blank Democratic canidate. The Post editorial board are the yellow dogs of journalism.

Posted by: RobT1 | October 19, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

eldergent: "Lets consider how well total rule by Democrats is working in D.C., Chicago, Detroit, etc before electing any more in Virginia."

Why don't we we just consider how well it's working right here in Virginia, which is a little more relevant.

Virginia is annually ranked as one of the very best-run states in the country. And that's with Democratic governors.

Let's look at Rhode Island, where the Republican governor has led the state to a whopping 13 percent unemployment rate. Way to go, Repukes!

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | October 19, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Question. Why should newspaper endorsements matter at all. A few people sitting in a room...why should they be relevant?

Posted by: sambatkins | October 19, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

McDonnell is sitting strong right now. With the cash advantage, good Republican environment, a traditionally conservative state in which Gov. Kaine & Pres. Obama are taking hits and the RGA on tv on his behalf Deeds has to have a major game changer. The Post endorsement is only half of what he needs. I'm not certain Deeds challenge is still winnable. Deeds must hope the Post endorsement shoots his popularity up in Northern Virginia. The problem? Northern Virginia already knows him and they know McDonnell. McDonnell is doing well in Northern Virginia, with his fundraising edge and roots in Northern Virginia. McDonnell is the overwhelming favorite in this race. New Jersey is now the battleground.

Posted by: reason5 | October 19, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Lets consider how well total rule by Democrats is working in D.C., Chicago, Detroit, etc before electing any more in Virginia.

Posted by: eldergent | October 19, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I see we have Sarah Palin's dumber sister, Bubbette, infesting this thread with her unique brand of gibberish.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | October 19, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

"They will have something on their face."

A nose, perhaps?

Posted by: drindl | October 19, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

They will have something on their face. Hopefully Virgina and New Jersey will see the Spendocrats defeated. In CA-10 David Harmer is making a serious run and could defeat Garamendi (the union and Obamacare shill).

Posted by: Bubbette1 | October 19, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Loud and dumb made a funny.

Posted by: snowbama | October 19, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

The more attention and hype that gets paid to the race, the better Deeds will do. McDonnell's at the absolute peak of support from his extremely motivated base; Deeds has a lot of slack yet in support from Democrats that he can pull in. McDonnell is basically sliding by right now on the Democrat's fatigue.

Posted by: nodebris | October 19, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I tend to agree that the WashPost endorsement carries more weight in the Democratic primary than the general election.

Posted by: SilverSpring8 | October 19, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

There is a huge difference between an endorsement in a primary and one in a general election. In primaries people enter not really knowing that much about the candidates. Democrats were voting in a Democratic primary to choose the best Democrat. In a general election people enter having a broad idea which party they favour based on its general positions and their views of the government of the day. There are far fewer floating voters.

Posted by: qlangley | October 19, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, xfreestater : )

Posted by: JakeD | October 19, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm an independent and the Post endorsement changes nothing for me. I'll be voting for McDonnell.

Posted by: xfreestater | October 19, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

"Lipstick on a pig."

Stop talking about Sarah Palin. You'll make joked cry.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | October 19, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Oh, are we quoting Washington? Here's a good one, in which he explains how important it is that the United States was created to be a place free from religious tyranny:

"The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens."

Posted by: tailwagger | October 19, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Lipstick on a pig.

Posted by: snowbama | October 19, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I have to admit that the Post's endorsement of Deeds is what swayed me to vote for him in the primaries. I probably would have voted for Moran otherwise. Although I've been a Hillary supporter, I could not support McAuliffe.

The Post's endorsement of Deeds for the primaries got me to think of him as the candidate for all of Virginia, not just Northern Virginia (I'm an Alexandrian). He seems pragmatic, and actually more conservative than I typically would support. Of course, the fire-breathing Right would characterize ANY Democrat as Socialist/Marxist/Communist, and true to form, they don't disappoint, do they? Deeds is about as far from a socialist liberal Democrat as one can get without being a Republican, but the Right knows no nuance - just labels.

It's evident from his record that McDonnell will have socially conservative items on his agenda. His economic ideas are more of the voodoo economics that got us into the mess that Obama is trying to fix (the mess conservatives ignored for years, and now wail about Obama not fixing in 9 months).

The no-taxes policies of Virginia's Right has created the condition where the state is having to cut back more and more. People, you have to pay one way or the other. The Republican way stopped being one of fiscal responsibility long ago - it's now a policy of defer payment, ignore payment, until things fall apart. Just don't mention taxes! Then people can feel good about keeping more in their paycheck, while they pay more in the long run.

The GOP's policies are a failure. McDonnell represents what doesn't work.

Deeds is best for Virginia.

Posted by: hitpoints | October 19, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Could someone share WHEN has the WPO endorsed anyone that is NOT democrat? I was a long time subscriber of this rag, and I do not remember them EVER endorse someone that is NOT a democrat. So, game changer? Nope.

Posted by: vjperez | October 19, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

"Deeds' better chance to rally northern Virginia Democrats behind him will come next Tuesday when President Barack Obama stumps in the region for him."

Really? Having a Prez whose own ratings are sliding into the tank stumping for you is going to *help*? Somehow, I think Deeds would be better off trying to distance himself, much like Republicans did with Bush. (Of course, it didn't help them much, either.)

Posted by: DrFrasierCrane | October 19, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

"As an American, I am asking Virginians to again take the hard path as leaders, as they did in 1776, to re-establish American values and independence from tyranny. "

Where do these nutcases come from? Jesus. Yes kids, time to take out yer muskets and go after them redcoats, before they get to yer still.

Posted by: drindl | October 19, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

jake, the idea behind an endosrement isn't that they are picking the winner, they are backing the person they understand is best for the job.

As with Bush, stupid people deserve the stupid leadership they elect. And if McDonnell is elected, I would be very glad to have him prove me wrong. I only want what is best for my country.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | October 19, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

New Poll: 60% of Virginians oppose raising taxes to address transportation problems. 29% of Virginians have joined Creigh Deeds and the Washington Post editors to support raising taxes on Virginians.

See this:

Posted by: VirginianforFreedom | October 19, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully, the good citizens of Virginia will lead the way for the American way of life by opposing the Obama/Democrats/Socialist takeover of America by not electing the Obama candidate, Deeds. Deeds has said many times that he backs the Obama Socialist agenda.

As an American, I am asking Virginians to again take the hard path as leaders, as they did in 1776, to re-establish American values and independence from tyranny. McDonnell may not be the perfect candidate (no one really is), but he is certainly better than the Obama Socialist candidate, Deeds.

Please, Virginians, take the first step as American leaders and begin the defeat of Socialism in America.

Posted by: Incredulous52 | October 19, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

since this was expected i dont see it changing anything. Mcdonnell has two big things helping him in the home stretch, he has about 50% more cash on hand for the final push than deeds and Mcdonnell still leads with independents. I do like you chris, but i have a feeling your papers editorial board is going to sad on election day.

Posted by: dee150586 | October 19, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

The Post already took its best shot at McDonnell with the thesis, and that didn't boost Deeds, so I wouldn't expect the endorsement to help much either. I think he may be out of luck.

Posted by: tomtildrum | October 19, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

"Hopefully, Obama and the WaPo editorial board get egg on their face when McDonnell wins!

Posted by: JakeD | October 19, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse"

What a mature way to begin the discussion. No wonder you have your tongue buried in Sarah Palin's butt. Your maturity levels are pretty similar.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | October 19, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully, Obama and the WaPo editorial board get egg on their face when McDonnell wins!

Posted by: JakeD | October 19, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

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