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Deeds Campaign Coming Alive

Tim Craig

State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, a Democratic candidate for governor, announced additions to his campaign team today as he prepares for a heated three-way battle for the nomination.

Deeds said Joe Abbey, who most recently worked for Senator-elect Mark R. Warner (D), will serve as his campaign manager, overseeing day-to-day operations.

Deeds also confirmed that many of his senior advisers from his unsuccessful campaign for attorney general in 2005 will once again be helping him next year.

David Petts and his partner, Jill Normington, will serve as Deeds' pollster, as they did in 2005. This year, Normington worked for Democrat Glenn Nye in his successful race for Congress in Hampton Roads as well as various Democratic candidates around the country.

David Dixon, of Dixon/Davis Media Group, will be Deeds media consultant. And Kevin Mack, who worked in Virginia on Tom Perriello's apparently successful congressional campaign this year, will be Deeds' chief strategist.

The announcements come as Deeds and the two other Democratic candidates for governor - Del. Brian J. Moran (Alexandria) and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe -begin positioning themselves for the June primary.

At times, however, it has appeared in recent weeks as if there were only two candidates who were serious about making the race.

Moran and McAuliffe dominated the headlines (and blog posts) in the weeks following the Nov. 4 election. Until today's announcement, it was starting to look like Deeds was embracing a back-bencher strategy.

When McAuliffe announced his exploratory campaign in mid November, it was Moran's campaign that went on the offensive, pointing out that McAuliffe was once mentioned as a possible candidate for governor in Florida. A few days later, the Moran and McAuliffe campaigns scuffled over charges over who was being more negative. Deeds stayed out of it.

McAuliffe and Moran have also been sending out frequent schedules to the media about where they are campaigning. Deeds has been campaigning, too, but he stopped altering the media to his whereabouts after the Nov. 4 election.

"He is on the campaign trail 100 percent," said Peter Jackson, a Deeds spokesman. "He has cleared his schedule of virtually all of his other commitments except legislative ones and he is campaigning six or seven days a week."

Some Democrats say Deeds is making a strategic decision to let McAuliffe and Moran go at it. Deeds will benefit, they say, by being an alternative to the two other candidates, both of whom share the same political base in Northern Virginia.

But Deeds' quiet campaign could backfire.

With McAuliffe likely to generate hoards of media attention if he officially gets into the race, the contest could come down to a referendum on him and his experience with Virginia politics. The anti-McAuliffe forces may decide to rally around one candidate and, as of now, Moran is working hard to position himself as the most suitable alternative.

Last week, Moran announced he's been endorsed by more than a dozen local Democratic party officials.

In late October, a Washington Post poll showed Deeds trailing both Moran and McAuliffe among Democratic voters. Moran was ahead of Deeds by 5 percentage points. Considering Deeds ran statewide just four years ago, some Democrats, and Republicans, were stunned that Deeds was only drawing 11 percent of the vote in the poll.

And two weeks ago, Deeds got another piece of bad news. One of his largest donors from his 2005 campaign, billionaire R.J. Kirk, announced he is supporting McAuliffe.

By Tim Craig  |  November 26, 2008; 3:16 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Creigh Deeds , Tim Craig  
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