September 18, 2009 [LINK / comment]

McDonnell and Deeds debate

From the sound of yesterday's debate in Tysons Corner, Creigh Deeds thinks he is better suited to be governor because of a paper Bob McDonnell wrote 20 years ago. (???) The two candidates really went at it during the hour-long verbal exchange, a sign that the race is heating up. McDonnell kept his cool as Deeds kept hammering away, and responded by challenging Deeds to explain his (evidently non-existent) transportation plan, and to clarify whether he does indeed plan to raise taxes to pay for such projects. According to the Washington Post, "Deeds has pledged to come up with a statewide, long-term solution in his first year in office but has offered no details, saying that doing so would jeopardize his ability to bring lawmakers together." (NOTE: There is a "fact check" box appended to that WaPo article, detailing the various inaccuracies committed by Deeds during the campaign.)

Thus far, Deeds has been notoriously vague on this crucial subjects, which reminds you of President Obama's style of governing, leaving tough decisions up to others. Not surprisingly, Deeds carefully distanced himself from President Obama, even though Obama won Virginia in last year's election. Deeds' focus on McDonnell's conservative values made it look like he (Deeds) has nothing better to talk about. Even though the debate was fairly civil, the tense atmosphere suggests that the next such encounter may get rougher. The McDonnell campaign Web site has some video footage from after the debate was over.

It is very gratifying that McDonnell has resisted the temptation to respond in kind to the attacks on him by Deeds. Instead, he is maintaining discipline and staying on message, downplaying social issues and emphasizing economic issues. He is clearly benefiting from national discontent over the economy and the growing dislike for Obama's Big Government agenda. McDonnell's record as a fiscal conservative will serve him well as independent voters make up their minds in the last few weeks. When it comes to budgetary matters and fiscal responsibility, McDonnell is no "Johnny Come Lately."

Race getting tighter?

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, cited by the Augusta Free Press, Deeds has narrowed the gap from about 9% to 2%, a virtual dead heat. It's probably just a short-term blip, but it reminds us that the race will probably be closer than most people think -- not a sure thing at all.

Predictably, perhaps, Andrew Sullivan called McDonnell "a radical theocrat" after the flap about the grad school paper. Sullivan is understandably "allergic" to social conservatives in general, so he probably has a hard time distinguishing the zealots, who tend to be more visible, from the rest.