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Discussion Excerpts: Marc Fisher on the Primaries

Earlier this evening Post Enterprise Editor Marc Fisher briefly resurrected his Potomac Confidential discussion series to take readers' questions about the election results.

Excerpts:

Fairfax, Va.: Ok, we had violent storms here in Northern Virginia (Moran's stronghold) and unpleasant weather farther south along the shore (McAuliffe's stronghold) but all things bright and beautiful in the Shenandoah Valley? Maybe God is trying to tell us something!

Marc Fisher: But early word had very low turnout in the Shenandoah, so be careful of conclusions or predictions based on weather.

Still, there's a school of thought that lousy weather keeps marginal voters away more than the party regulars for whom voting is a religion. If that holds true, it's indeed McAuliffe who would have the most to worry about--his is the strategy most dependent on luring back the Obama primary voters who were previously quite sour on the voting process.

Gilbert's Corner, Va.: So what percent of the turnout do you figure to be McDonnell supporters?

Marc Fisher: Very, very low. U-Va political scientist Larry Sabato has made something of a sub-specialty of debunking the notion that Virginia's open primaries really attract anything close to a meaningful number of partisans crossing the line to do mischief to the other party's primary. Sure, you can find some examples of folks who get their jollies that way, but it just doesn't add up to enough to have much of an impact.

That said, if at the end of tonight we have a real squeaker of a result, that topic will once again rear its ugly head.

Woodbridge, Va,.: Is it possible to determine what influence, if any, The Washington Post's endorsement for governor and lt. governor had on the outcome of the race?

Marc Fisher: If Deeds wins, his campaign will likely credit, however grudgingly, The Post's endorsement for giving him an essential boost in northern Virginia, muting Moran's home field advantage and allowing the rural senator to poke through. But the influence of editorial endorsements is a hotly debated little corner of political science, and anyone, with or without an academic credential, can see that the influence of such endorsements recedes with the decline in circulation of many newspapers. But consider this: In an era of enormous expansion of voices in politics, it is ever harder to attain mass audience--for politicians as well as for news media, so a newspaper endorsement may in a strange way have a greater impact today than it did when the audience wasn't as splintered as it is in today's atomized media landscape.

Woodbridge, Va.: Is it possible to determine what influence, if any, The Washington Post's endorsement for governor and lt. governor had on the outcome of the race?

Marc Fisher: If Deeds wins, his campaign will likely credit, however grudgingly, The Post's endorsement for giving him an essential boost in northern Virginia, muting Moran's home field advantage and allowing the rural senator to poke through. But the influence of editorial endorsements is a hotly debated little corner of political science, and anyone, with or without an academic credential, can see that the influence of such endorsements recedes with the decline in circulation of many newspapers. But consider this: In an era of enormous expansion of voices in politics, it is ever harder to attain mass audience -- for politicians as well as for news media, so a newspaper endorsement may in a strange way have a greater impact today than it did when the audience wasn't as splintered as it is in today's atomized media landscape.

Oldwick, N.J.: Thanks for doing this, Marc. My question is this: Should MaCauliffe lose tonight, do think this is the final verdict on the Clinton campaign machine that we've heard so much about? If he loses, is it the final indication that the Democratic Party has moved on from Clinton? They couldn't beat an upstart guy with a thin record in 2008, and now it's very possible that -- despite all the muscle the Clinton machine has put into this race -- their guy will lose the governorship. Thoughts?

Marc Fisher: I don't think so. First, McAuliffe is not Clinton. The ex-prez, despite his various, um, difficulties, is consistently very, very popular in polls, even among non-Democrats. Second, the verdict on McAuliffe, if indeed he is going down, is much more a statement about Virginia and its voters--both about the fact that despite their move toward Democrats, they remain very much a moderate bunch of voters, very suspicious of heavy-spending liberal Dems. And third, there remains a very strong sense of place in Virginia, something that someone who is perceived as an outsider runs into very quickly. McAuliffe always pooh-poohed that notion, but I think he did so at his own peril.

Broadlands, Va.: I was surprised at the number of Bob McDonnell signs at Hillside Elementary Polling place this morning -- probably 15 Bobs to every Terry, Brian and Creigh. If non-Dems aren't likely to vote, what's the purpose of spending $$ on signs instead of waiting and flooding TV and radio and my telephone in the fall?

Marc Fisher: McDonnell cannot win in the fall with just GOP support. He needs independents and some Dems too. So he has maintained a strong and continuous presence throughout the Democratic primary campaign. Smart move.

NoVa: If you can comment on the Deeds-McDonnell race: as unemployment stays high outside the Northern Virginia area, what impact will those third-party ads citing McDonnell's position against extending jobless benefits have?

Marc Fisher: The Democrats seem to think that's a real winner for them, and the GOP seems quite sensitive to the idea. The quickest and most vituperative exchanges of the primary season came on that issue--watch for a lot more of that.

My sense is that this will get pretty personal, because McDonnell's camp believes that their guy is the better, more likeable, more accessible personality, and Deeds' folks will want to demonstrate that McDonnell isn't nearly as moderate as he makes himself out to be.

Reston, Va.: Can we expect Bob McDonnell to run a "culture wars"-type campaign? This article from the Regent University Web site suggests that he might: Commonwealth Conservative (Christian Leader)

Marc Fisher: To the contrary, McDonnell is running as far away from that culture wars emphasis as he can--he knows he cannot win as a hard-core, unbending social conservative, so he's doing a remake as a moderate. Whether he can persuade voters of that transformation will likely be a huge factor in determining the outcome in November.

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  June 9, 2009; 9:54 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Election 2009  
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