The Fix: Last Night's Winners and Losers
Deeds Ads: For a candidate little-known statewide and suffering a significant charisma deficit to at least one of his opponents, Deeds's ads were of critical importance in introducing himself to Virginia voters and making the case why he was the natural heir to the political legacies of Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. Thanks to David Dixon and Rich Davis, who have been with Deeds since he lost the attorney general's race by 323 votes in 2005, the nominee's ads stood out from the pack. Crisp and clean they cast Deeds as something of an everyman -- the kind of guy who is easy to vote for. Need to see what we are talking about? Go watch the Deeds ad touting his endorsement by the Washington Post.
Mainstream Media: Just when you thought we were dead and buried. . . . Ask anyone involved in the race what the critical moment was when things started to move for Deeds and they will tell you -- to a person -- it was Friday May 22 when the Post endorsed the state senator. "The defining moment in this campaign occurred in a conference room at the Washington Post," said Chris Cooper, a Democratic consultant at Knickerbocker SKD who has worked extensively in Virginia. Proof of the power of the Post endorsement? Deeds carried the three northern Virginia congressional districts -- including the seat held by Rep. Jim Moran, the brother of former state Del. Brian Moran. No one would have thought that possible even a few weeks ago.
Momentum: In primaries, momentum tends to be a major factor. Since the candidates have few differences on the issues, most voters and elected officials like to wait until the end to make up their mind and then go with whichever candidate has the look of a winner. That's clearly what happened in this race as Deeds scooped up massive swaths of undecided voters across the state -- not to mention a handful of influential state senators -- in the final days of the contest. Once Deeds got rolling, it was impossible to stop him because the three candidates largely agreed on issues; voters were siding with the winner and that sentiment turned what was once a close race into an absolute landslide.
Joe Abbey: While both McAuliffe and Moran had bigger names at the heads of their campaigns, it was Abbey, Deeds's campaign manager, who wound up on top. As early as February, an influential Virginia politics blog -- ingeniously named "Not Larry Sabato" -- wrote a post pointing to the changes Abbey had made since coming on in December 2008 that managed to keep Deeds in the game. Given the importance of Virginia in the 2012 electoral landscape, Abbey is now in a position to write his own ticket when it comes to his next job.
DGA: The Democratic Governors Association got their ideal candidate in Deeds -- a moderate from the rural, western part of the state who will be tough to label as just another Democratic liberal. That doesn't mean Republicans won't try -- they were already hitting Deeds last night for his votes in the state Senate to raise taxes -- but Deeds is a much more difficult target than McAuliffe, certainly, and even Moran would have been.
Headline Writers: The semi-oddness of Deeds's name -- first and last -- makes for a field day for the ink-stained wretched who have to pour all of their creative juices into a few words. Jim Hobart, who works at the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, offered up a few gems based off of the Deeds's victory on Tuesday night. Among them: "Yes inDEED!", "Mr. Deeds goes to Richmond?" and, our personal favorite, "InCREIGHdible".
McAuliffe's Ads: The Macker's competitive advantage in this race was his fundraising capacity, which allowed him to get up on television months before Deeds or Moran. And yet, there isn't a single ad that proved particularly memorable even though McAuliffe insiders insist the commercials did move numbers (not enough, apparently). We also wonder whether it was a strategic mistake for McAulliffe to talk so much in his own ads; his accent made him sound like he was running for mayor of Syracuse -- we are on record as first to float the idea! -- rather than governor of Virginia. Don't dismiss the importance of how a candidate sounds in his (or her) ads; Republican strategists acknowledge that Jerry Kilgore's accent hurt him badly during his own 2005 gubernatorial bid in Virginia.
Brian Schweitzer: Why the heck did the chairman of the DGA fly from Montana to Virginia to not only endorse McAuliffe but travel the state with him? We didn't understand it when it happened and we understand it even less now. Schweitzer is ambitious and won a lot of hearts for his stemwinder at last year's Democratic National Convention. But, the McAuliffe endorsement is rightly seen as a blemish on what has been a sterling electoral record for the Montana governor. Kudos to the Republican Governors Association for their well-timed press release on the subject last night; "Congratulations on your victory tonight," said RGA Communications Director Mike Schrimpf. "FYI, the DGA will be calling you soon . . . they're real sorry about that endorsement of Terry McAuliffe last week," joked RGA spokesman Mike Schrimpf.
Brian Moran: Moran had been laying the groundwork for this race for years and, prior to McAuliffe getting into the contest, was widely seen as the likely Democratic nominee. Instead, he finished third and lost every congressional district in his supposed base. What happened? Moran seemed never to get over the idea that McAuliffe was running for governor; he focused so much of his time and energy on proving that the Macker was a carpetbagger who was ill-suited to be governor that he never made a positive case to Virginians for why they should choose him.
The Clinton Legacy: Not only did McAulliffe, the national chairman for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, lose in his first run for elected office but so too did Adam Parkhomenko, the wunderkind who came to prominence as HRC campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle's assistant during the 2008 campaign. Parkhomenko, who was running for the 47th district House seat, wound up placing third behind winner Patrick Hope. While Clintonites may never set foot in the Ballston Westin hotel again -- the site of McAulliffe's "victory" party and countless events for the New York senator during the campaign -- it's almost certain that Parkhomenko will be heard from sometime soon in Commonwealth politics.
Christopher Dean Hopkins
June 10, 2009; 10:11 AM ET
Categories: 2009 Governor's Race , Election 2009
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