Despite odds, Deeds camp working to rouse voters
State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, trying to counter a string of bad campaign news and discouraging poll numbers, made four stops in Northern Virginia on Friday, trying to excite his Democratic base and last year's many first-time voters.
Deeds (D-Bath) brought with him a host of state politicians touting his ability to come back from what some analysts have called an insurmountable deficit (read Michael Gerson's and E.J. Dionne Jr.'s takes). Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William) predicted the "greatest upset since Harry Truman." U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) argued that Deeds come-from-behind victory in the Democratic gubernatorial primary was proof that he could close out a race. He touted the work of 14,000 Virginia volunteers during his own Senate campaign in 2006.
"In Virginia, in the off years, voters tend not to focus until the final days," Webb said. "The trick is to appeal to people's self-interest and motivate them to come out and vote."
U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Fairfax) said he thought many Virginia Democrats were suffering from voter fatigue. He emphasized the importance of canvassing and phone banking to Tuesday's outcome but, in an interview, Connolly said Tuesday -- regardless of what happened -- would do little to damage the Democratic Party's political gains statewide since 2001.
"Whatever happens Tuesday, I wouldn't read too much into it," he said after a Deeds rally in Woodbridge. "It's one election in Virginia. Does anyone doubt that if Gov. Tim Kaine could run for re-election he'd be cruising to victory?"
With U.S. Sen Mark Warner (D-Va.) out with the flu and U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) a no-show for the Falls Church rally due to a scheduling conflict, Deeds was left with Webb, Connolly, and his two fellow down-ballot Democrats, Del. Steve Shannon and Jody Wagner.
Wagner, who is running for lieutenant governor, coined the catch-phrase for the day: "Give us four days and we'll give you a great four years." Deeds re-used the slogan at each stop, oftentimes to applause.
At the Falls Church rally, more than 100 people showed up to support a host of statewide and local House Democrat candidates. Leni Gonzalez, 52, of Arlington carried a sign that read: "I Am A Latino And I Am Voting For Deeds!" She said a Deeds victory was important to making sure "we don't elect anti-immigrant Republicans" while predicting a Deeds win.
Libby Collins, 27, also of Arlington said that while poll numbers showing McDonnell with a substantial lead in the governor's race was "discouraging," she was buoyed by active volunteers who had worked to elect President Obama.
"Obviously you don't want to come from behind but Democrats can show a lot of enthusiasm," she said.
But, for the most part, Deeds' Friday events were small in number and were situated in relatively cramped quarters. Staffers said they were designed to connect with and recruit both core Democrats and so-called "Obama surge voters," who could canvass door-to-door and contact friends and family members about Tuesday's election.
Whether their voter outreach was working remained to be seen.
The most vocal person at an Alexandria rally at King Street Blues was a man who stood outside the restaurant in a dolphin costume. Wearing a SpongeBob SquarePants tie and suit over the outfit, the man yelled at Deeds supporters as they walked in, calling them "fishy." He refused to give his name or identify his party affiliation.
At Deeds' final Northern Virginia event, at the City Tavern Grille in Manassas, about 20 people sat at tables in a sparse conference room. At times, the rally was drowned out by a raucous 40th "over the hill"-themed birthday party.
The biggest applause Deeds got during his campaign stops was when he spoke about transportation. When he referenced the 75-minute, traffic-clogged trek he took from Falls Church to Manassas on Friday, the crowd of about 30 roared.
Simon Fraser, an 18-year-old high schooler from Warrenton, said he would be volunteering on Sunday for the Deeds' campaign in what is his first election as a voter. But he acknowledged a general disinterest in the election for many young voters.
"A lot of the polls keep changing so you don't what to believe but a lot of my friends aren't really talking about this race," Fraser said. "It's not like it was last year for Obama.
Deeds said he has done little to change his message but acknowledged a sense or urgency as Nov. 3 draws closer.
"We're going to win. We're going to surprise some people," he said in an interview after his Falls Church rally. "I've been counted out since I was 9 years old, when I lived in a trailer. I've been coming back for a very long time."
UPDATED: A Deeds campaign coordinator, Kate Harrington, says the headcount at the Manassas event was 74. That number would presumably include Deeds staffers and interns, volunteers, press and the general public.
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