Virginia — not “blue” after all

As John wrote earlier today, Republican Bob McDonnell is cruising to victory in his race against Creigh Deeds for governor of Virginia. The latest Washington Post poll has McDonnell up by 11 percentage points (55-44). Other polls show a lead of around 15 points, which is where the Post had the race in August.
The fact that Deeds is polling about the same now as he did in August tends to undercut the Obama administration’s claim that Deeds’ struggles are the result of a poor campaign. If the campaign were so bad, we would expect Deeds to be doing worse in the polls than he was a few months ago. As I’ve said before, some of Deeds’ campaign decisions did smack of desperation. But that’s because he truly was desperate.
A better argument for a White House that wants to escape any taint it fears might come from a big McDonnell win would be that Deeds’ showing is the result of state-specific factors, not discontent with Obama. This argument would have the virtue of being true — President Obama isn’t very popular in Virginia these days, but the real problem for Deeds is discontent with eight years of Democratic rule. For most Virginians, this election simply isn’t about Obama, nor would one expect a governor’s race in an off-off-year to be.
But for the White House there’s a presumption that everything is about Obama. And the notion that Obama’s victory hasn’t converted Virginia into a state that any decent Democratic candidate can carry isn’t easy for the White House to accept.

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