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Fact Check: Did Deeds Go Back on Promise to Stay Away From Abortion?

Virginia's two most recent Democratic governors made sure to shy away from the abortion debate during their respective campaigns, a plan that worked well politically in the state's more conservative strongholds.

At first, it appeared that state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds would follow suit. So when Deeds (D-Bath) began a new effort this month to attack his Republican gubernatorial opponent's stance on abortion, it was a noteworthy change for a politician who in recent weeks decried the "politics of division." Robert F. McDonnell, a former Virginia attorney general, has said he is against abortion in almost every instance, including rape and incest, except when the mother's life is in danger.

"I think it's an area that shows a clear distinction between us," Deeds said in an interview earlier this month with The Post's Rosalind S. Helderman and Sandhya Somashekhar. "I'm a moderate guy, and I've been a consensus-builder my entire career. ... My opponent is the guy who has pursued a socially driven ideological agenda who now is masquerading as a centrist."

Days later, at a campaign stop at the Northern Virginia Community College campus in Annandale, Deeds reiterated his push to talk about the differences between McDonnell and himself.

"It's easy in an election year to talk a good game about the governor you're going to be, and it's easy to talk about jobs and bipartisanship, but I think it's my obligation to draw distinctions where they exist," Deeds said.

The move to bring abortion into the race runs counter to statements Deeds made earlier this summer, pledging to leave such issues out of the campaign.

During a Virginia Bar Association debate at the historic Homestead last month, Deeds derided the use of social issues, such as abortion and gun control, as political weapons.

"We can't be continually dividing our citizens along the social mores, the social politics, and politics that are personal views," he said.

Later, during the July 25 debate, in response to a question from moderator Rodney A. Smolla, dean of the Washington and Lee University School of Law, Deeds noted that he had "never introduced bills related to abortion or gay rights" while in Richmond and said tha, as governor, he would focus heavily on the economy.

"To the extent that those issues arise, I'm not afraid to talk about them," he said. "I'm not afraid to address them when needed. But I've never made social policy a huge part of my campaign or a main focus of my agenda."

Republicans have also made hay of comments Deeds made in 2001, when he urged fellow Democrats to stay away from controversial social issues.

"There's a bevy of social issues that people in our party have too often championed that have driven a wedge between us and our base," he said at the time.

For Deeds, however, the abortion debate is a new "daring adventure" for his campaign. "Everything in life is risky," he said.


By Derek Kravitz  |  August 23, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , 2009 Governor's Race Fact Checker  
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It's a difficult tightrope to walk. I agree with Creigh Deeds that McDonnell "is the guy who has pursued a socially driven ideological agenda who now is masquerading as a centrist." At the same time, it is risky (as Deeds acknowledges) to provide examples that support that description of the Republican candidate.

When considering McDonnell's ideological agenda, I hope voters will also focus on his opposition to support for poor women who choose to have their babies.

His lack of concern for children is also demonstrated by his opposition to financial support of education at all levels from pre-K through college.

Posted by: wpbrown46 | August 23, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

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