Democrats' Press Call Goes Awry with Mudcat's Candor
Oops. This afternoon, what was billed as a press call to slam former congressman Tom Davis (R) for allegedly anti-rural remarks turned into an all-too-candid strategy session, courtesy of David "Mudcat" Saunders.
The longtime Democratic operative apparently wasn't told by party officials or the campaign of gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh Deeds (D) that it was in fact a press call, rather than an internal chat about strategy. So for several minutes, Saunders spoke rather colorfully and indelicately about his indignation over Davis' recent comments and about how they could be leveraged to help Deeds.
He noted that the remarks might better be spun as anti-working-person, rather than anti-rural, because "From what I've seen up in Northern Virginia, they don't give a damn if people talk s*** about us." And in trying to explain that the comments might also be offensive to those with rural roots who live in Northern Virginia, he said there are "more rednecks on Route 1 in Alexandria than the sixth district of Virginia."
The call was supposed to center on a quote in a recent Washington Post story in which Davis (R) said Deeds "doesn't speak the language" necessary to woo the support of Northern Virginia business leaders.
"As if those of us downstate are, what, barefoot and stupid?" said House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong (D), who was also on the conference call. He called for Robert F. McDonnell (R), Deeds' opponent, to repudiate Davis' comment.
Reached by telephone, Davis said the quote had been misconstrued. "If you read the article, it was all about the business community," he said. "We were talking about the business community. It wasn't about northern or southern or rural or urban Virginia.... He doesn't speak the language of business."
Also on the call with Saunders were Democratic Party of Virginia spokeswoman Allison Jaslow and former Deeds campaign manager Susan Swecker. They let him talk on for several minutes before we finally piped up and asked a question, partly to point out that we were there.
A flustered Saunders replied that he didn't know the press was on the call. "I was told it was a strategy call," he said.
He later explained that he used the term redneck "affectionately, people from the culture." The reference to Route 1 in Alexandria referred to military personnel at Fort Belvoir who might have hailed from Iowa or some other rural community.
"I'm a redneck, and Ward Armstrong is too," he said. For the record, Saunders lives in the sixth Congressional district.
And in explaining his comment about Northern Virginians' empathy, or lack thereof, for folks elsewhere in the state, he said he was trying to convey that people typically care most about their own communities, and that the Democrats' message might have broader resonance if it were crafted as anti-working-person and not linked to geography.
September 21, 2009; 4:18 PM ET
Categories: 2009 Governor's Race , Creigh Deeds , Robert F. McDonnell , Sandhya Somashekhar , Thomas M. Davis III
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