June 9, 2009
Perhaps it was the surge in TV advertisements for Creigh Deeds late in the campaign, or perhaps it was people getting tired of hearing Terry McAuliffe's Chicago accent. Getting an endorsement by the Washington Post didn't hurt either. Whatever the reasons, it's pretty clear that the Democrats have nominated their most appealing candidate to go up against Republican Bob McDonnell in the fall gubernatorial campaign. Deeds came within a fraction of a percent of getting an outright majority of votes in a three-way race, which is very impressive, given his relatively modest funding. The Washington Post called the result a "stunning come-from-behind victory."
Deeds is from Bath County, in the rugged highlands of western Virginia, and some have mocked him -- unfairly -- for being something of a backwoods rube. He is competent and likeable, which is one reason I initially doubted he would win. (Leo Durocher: "Nice guys finish last.") Deeds has been an advocate of redistricting reform, a cause that I believe in, but in his case it comes from personal experience. His 25th Senate District is the most severely "gerrymandered" constituency in the Old Dominion, with a thin strip of land linking two Appalachian counties with parts of Albemarle and Nelson counties on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge. That sort of monkey business has got to stop. But Deeds will have to work hard to distinguish himself from the traditional big-spending liberal activism that the sitting governor Tim Kaine exemplifies. Just because Barack Obama won in Virginia last fall does not mean that most Virginians agree with his agenda or ideology.
I positively dreaded the prospect that the Clintonista McAuliffe might occupy the Governor's Mansion next year. Like his former boss in the White House, "Bubba," he practically exudes insincerity from every pore in his body. Toward the end of the campaign, his ads emphasized his supposed advantage in electability, but I have serious doubts about that. He lined up endorsements from most of the "usual suspects" in the Democratic coalition, mainly the public employee unions, but that only served to highlight his identity as an old-fashioned Ted Kennedy-style Democrat. As for his argument that he would have done better against Bob McDonnell in November, I've come to be skeptical of the opinion polls in Virginia over the years, and this primary election result validates that.
Brian Moran barely won a majority in his home turf of Alexandria, and failed to convey a strong message or image of himself across the state. He represented the wealthier, suburban, more liberal people in Virginia, and he and McAuliffe ended up fighting each other for that group, while Deeds built a large majority in the southern and western parts of the state, while picking up support in the more populated areas.
Bob McDonnell had a congratulatory video, grinningly expressing "regret" that the Democrats' campaign against each other has come to an end. It was a positive message that pointed to his openness to new approaches, prioritizing the creation of new jobs through the private sector: "Yes to new jobs, yes to economic growth, and yes to more opportunities for Virginians." I had expected that the Dems would tear each other apart, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Terry McAuliffe seemed flustered when interviewed as the results were coming in, but he seems committed to uniting behind his party's ticket this fall.
For Lieutenant Governor, Jody Wagner trounced Michael Signer but will have a big uphill battle against incumbent Bill Bolling this fall.
In local races, Greg Marrow defeated James Noel by a two-to-one margin in the 25th District House of Delegates primary race, and will challenge incumbent Steve Landes this fall.