Wilder: Obama Made a Pitch for Deeds
Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder says he received a call directly from President Obama about three weeks ago to discuss a variety of issues, but, top among them, was the Virginia governor's race.
Wilder said the call was confidential and he would not reveal his exact back and forth with the president, whom Wilder strongly supported last year. But, he said, Obama made clear that he would like the former Democratic governor to get off the fence and endorse Democrat Creigh Deeds.
"I'll just say he called and made his position known and made it clear, he's a Democrat, Mr. Deeds is a Democrat and obviously, the president would like to see a Democratic victory," Wilder said.
Wilder said the president's call was just one of a number of contacts he has had with the White House in recent weeks on the issue.
Wilder confirmed that he will be making a statement about his endorsement later this week, as first reported Sunday by the Washington Times. He stressed the statement would be *about* his endorsement, not necessarily an endorsement. And he said he will be speaking to Deeds directly for the first time this year either today or tomorrow.
Wilder has a long history of withholding his endorsement until the very last minute in elections and jumping in now would be somewhat out of character for the former governor. On the other hand, the mystery being built around his nod this year is vintage Wilder.
Is there any way to divine the tea leaves about what Wilder might do later this week? You tell us if you can figure it out. He insists he will not make up his mind until meeting with Deeds. As he has repeatedly over the last several months, he said he thinks that Deeds has not yet defined himself with voters. He calls Republican Robert F. McDonnell's writings in his 1989 thesis "the dumbest thing he could do." But says that even if McDonnell were "put in front of a firing squad," that would leave Deeds standing alone. "That would leave you with Deeds having to define who he is. What would he do?"
On the other hand, Wilder did not go out of his way to praise McDonnell, as he has in the past. Instead he said both candidates have been talking too much about how they would spend state money without enough realism about how little money the state now has.
"To both of those candidates, it doesn't make any sense to go around the state telling people what you will do when you know you will not have any money," he said.
Would Wilder really turn down a direct appeal from the president of the United States?
"No one that I know of, went out more for President Obama than I did," Wilder said. "I don't think the president questions my loyalty to him at all."
So maybe, yes. But then there is this: "I never have endorsed a Republican. Consequently, that being the case, I don't know if that's going to change," he said, suggesting the issue is whether he will endorse Deeds or stay out of the race, as he did when Deeds ran against McDonnell for attorney general in 2005.
But, with Wilder, it's always hard to tell until he decides to tell. So, stay tuned.
September 21, 2009; 9:34 AM ET
Categories: 2009 Governor's Race , Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman
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