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As '09 Race Begins, Obama Supporters Up for Grabs

Tim Craig

As the race for the Democratic nomination for governor gets underway, one question is still awaiting an answer: Will any of the candidates be able to latch into the extensive political network that President-Elect Barack Obama built in Virginia this year?

In what may turn out being the biggest missed opportunity of the 2009 race, none of the Democratic candidates got behind Obama early in the presidential campaign. Fearful of getting entangled in the primary battle between Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY.), both Del. Brian J. Moran (D-Alexandria) and Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) remained neutral. The third contender for the nomination, Terry McAuliffe, served as national chairman of Clinton's campaign.

Had Deeds or Moran been associated with the Obama campaign during the presidential primaries, they would have likely been rewarded with intense loyalty from his supporters in 2009. Obama also may have decided to throw his support behind that candidate next year.

After the primaries, all three Democrats did hit the trail extensively for Obama around Virginia, appearing at times as if they were trying to outdo the others when it came to expressing their support for the Democratic ticket. But in fashioning their campaign teams, Moran, Deeds and McAuliffe are all so far relying on top Virginia strategists who supported, or worked for, Clinton during the primaries.

Many of the early Obama volunteers who helped him rack up a 30-point victory in the Feb. 12 primary remain on the sidelines, which could make them a major prize in the early positioning for next year.

Kevin Wolf of Arlington, who helped start up Obama's grassroots effort in Virginia in the spring of 2007, said he and other Obama volunteers do not have a natural candidate for governor.

"I don't think it will be a movement of Obama people to one direction or another," said Wolf, who coordinated Obama's petition effort in 2007. "I just think it is going to be a larger sample of activists that all three candidates can pull from instead of any one being associated with the Obama movement."

Wolf said some Obama volunteers will probably chose not to get involved in the primary, except perhaps to vote, but those who do will likely get behind the candidate that hails from their region. Those down state, he said, may be more inclined to work for Deeds while those in Northern Virginia could choose McAuliffe or Moran.

But a bidding war could ensue in the coming days. The Virginia Democratic Party began closing its regional headquarters this week, meaning the hundreds of field organizers Obama deployed across the state are now looking for work. Some of them, party leaders say, are hoping to get jobs with one of the Democratic candidates for governor.

By Tim Craig  |  November 12, 2008; 6:30 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Brian J. Moran , Creigh Deeds , Terry McAuliffe , Tim Craig  
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Remember, since the Jimmy Carter election (76'), which ever party runs the white house, virginia elects the opposite party to run the governorship the follow year.
Carter-D (1976) Dalton-R (1977)
Reagan-R (1980 and 1984) Robb and Bililes (D's) 1981 and 1985
Bush sr-R (1988) Wilder-D (1989)
Clinton-D (1992 and 96') Allen and Gilmore (R's) 1993 and 1997
Bush jr-R (2000 and 2004) Warner and Kaine (D's) 2001 and 2005
Obama-D (2008) McDonnell-R 2009? maybe? will all just have to wait and see until 09' governor race

Posted by: ehs2002 | November 12, 2008 8:01 PM | Report abuse

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