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Wilder: Deeds Has Not Yet Asked

Rosalind Helderman

In an interview this afternoon, former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder expanded on earlier comments about his meeting this week with White House Political Director Patrick Gaspard, as well as his decision to rebuff the White House's request for him to get on board for Democrat Creigh Deeds.

Among other things, Wilder says Deeds hasn't really yet asked for his endorsement. He said the two last sat down in the fall, when Deeds specifically told him he had not come seeking support but merely to talk about the race. The two now have a meeting scheduled for August, but have not spoken since Deeds won the June 9 primary.

"Suppose the last thing you hear him say is 'I'm not asking for your support, I'm just coming to be here.' And then you don't hear anything else. How would you feel?" he said.

In contrast, Republican Bob McDonnell has come calling several times, Wilder said, including as recently as a few weeks ago. And he's asked outright for Wilder's support.

Wilder said he has a number of unresolved concerns that he would like to hear more about from Deeds. They include "financial stewardship" of the state, Deeds' gun control position and his position on abortion rights. Wilder said he disagreed with Gov. Tim Kaine's decision to save state money by closing highway rest stops and would have liked to hear Deeds forcefully part ways with his party's leader on the issue.

"The question is leadership. Where is your mantle of leadership?" Wilder said. "I have not seen it."

Wilder said that he knows that Kaine badly needs his party to win the governorship, given his job as head of the Democratic National Committee. But that though he knows Kaine is trying to aide Deeds' effort, some of Kaine's actions have been unhelpful.

"What Creigh is running is a campaign of linkage and lineage--first cousin to Warner and Kaine. The question is, is that link strong enough?" he asked.

He added: "Are the actions of Kaine helping him? That's questionable."

And it goes on. Wilder claims Gaspard stressed to him that it would be fairly dire for Democrats to lose both Virginia and this year's other off-year election, New Jersey. And he said Gaspard said Deeds campaign has not accepted all of the help the White House has so far offered.

"He said they had offered help in terms of organizing and getting out the vote, but the Deeds campaign said they had everything in charge," Wilder said.

And Wilder said he believed he was not the only Democrat to feel Deeds's effort to reach out has been lackluster. He said he ran into Democratic businesswoman Sheila Johnson recently at an event at National Harbor in Maryland, and she told him she was thinking of endorsing McDonnell because she had felt taken for granted by Deeds. "She felt people were seeking her out for money. And I think she got a little tired of it," he said.

The nation's first black governor cautioned Deeds not to break the state up into ethnic constituencies and then assume he had those group's backing because he has a few key supporters.

"It can't be just that we have to go along because he's a Democrat. That doesn't cut it for me," he said.

On the other hand, Wilder called McDonnell "pleasant folk, a family man."

"It's not a question of my support for him as an alternative to Deeds, it's a question of if Deeds gets the support he needs," he said.

Okay, so that's to say he's ruled out endorsing McDonnell then?

"You live as long as I've lived, you never rule out anything," he laughed.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  July 24, 2009; 1:33 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Barack Obama , Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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