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Will Obama Be Back?

Rosalind Helderman

Will he or won't he?

Will President Obama be campaigning in Virginia again for Democrat R. Creigh Deeds?

It's the question of the moment as a story appears in this morning's Wall Street Journal citing a source who says the White House is backing off support for Deeds, and Gov. Brian Schweitzer, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, is quoted over the weekend suggesting that the Dems' chances in the New Jersey race are stronger than in Virginia.

No event has yet been announced, and the Deeds campaign continues to say only that they hope one will occur and they are working closely with the White House.

They also insist that all is well with the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Governors Association, as the three groups hold daily conference calls and coordinate closely. The DGA pumped $250,000 into the campaign last week, and Deeds senior adviser Mo Elleithee said a $1 million contribution from the DNC announced Monday was not a pledge. It was a check -- wired directly into the Deeds account.

For all the bits of swirling talk suggesting that national Democrats are backing off, there are also counterpoints to suggest that they remain invested. Beyond the new money, Vice President Biden will be in Virginia tomorrow to hold a Deeds fundraiser. And the Richmond Times Dispatch reports that Gov. Tim Kaine, chairman of the national party, said yesterday that Obama is indeed likely to return to Virginia.

"The White House is very much engaged in this race," Kaine said. "They have been heartened to see it close -- they want to see it close more."

And here's Nathan Daschle, executive director of the DGA, also trying to shoot down the story: "We're as close to that campaign as we've ever been. The talk couldn't be further from the truth.

"What happens when you have only two races in an election year is that there's not enough for pundits to talk about and they often make things up," he added.

There is some irony, in that the candidate who spent weeks arguing that the race was all about Virginia is now anxiously working to prove he remains close to power brokers in Washington. After all, Deeds pointedly declined the opportunity to refer to himself as a "Barack Obama Democrat" at a recent debate.

This is the kind of chatter that is very poll-driven. Polling that shows McDonnell maintaining a steady lead over Deeds will likely result in many more blind quotes from national Democratic strategists about the weakness of Deeds's efforts. But surveys showing Deeds movement would probably end it fairly quickly.

On the money front, a lot of people have suggested that both the RNC and the DNC have been pledging money in this race but not necessarily forking over real dollars. Campaign finance rules in Virginia are such that we can confirm donations given by the DGA and the RGA via the Virginia Public Access Project because they are 527 groups that don't advocate for federal candidates and are subject to special Virginia rules.

The DNC and RNC are different, because they are regulated by the Federal Election Commission and not subject to Virginia's rules for 527s. On Oct. 15, we'll be able to double-check how much each group gave in September. On Oct. 26, we'll do the same for the money spent between Oct. 1 and Oct. 21 -- including the latest $1 million wire transfer from the DNC. And, finally, starting Oct. 21, both campaigns are required to report any gift of $5,000 or more within 24 hours.

UPDATE: Brad Woodhouse, communications director for the DNC, adds to the discussion: "You need look no further than the resources we've committed to this race and our active involvement in the campaign to see that the President and Democratic Party are fully supportive of Creigh Deeds and we have every reason to believe he can and will win."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  October 7, 2009; 11:52 AM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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