The Obama administration has apparently given up hope of a Democratic victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race and is, in the words of the Washington Post, “laying the groundwork to blame [the] loss of a weak candidate who ran a poor campaign that failed to fully embrace President Obama until days before the election.” The candidate in question is Creigh Deeds, who is running far behind Republican Robert McDonnell.
The White House’s efforts to distance itself from Deeds’ impending loss strikes me as both unpersuasive and unnecessary. Deeds is in an impossible situation. Democrats have held the governor position for 12 straight years [correction, 8 years] and Virginians are sick of them. (Ironically, the Dems are pointing to Deeds’ alleged failure to follow the advice of Tim Kaine, the incumbent governor, whose lack of popularity is a big part of Deeds’ problem). And, although Obama carried the state, its voters remain moderate to conservative, and Obama’s leftist mode of governance has caused him to lose a considerable amount of his popularity in the Commonwealth.
Under these circumstances, Deeds’ defeat is pretty much inevitable, as I suggested here and here. He has run a “negative” campaign not because he’s stupid or an inveterate contrarian, but because it was his only possible path back into the race. Specifically, his attacks on McDonnell’s alleged sexism offered at the least the prospect of winning female votes in Northern Virginia — votes he absolutely has to have.
Few candidates look good when the tide is running strongly against them. But I doubt that Deeds is the fool he’s being made out to be. He did, after all, upset two fairly high profile Democrats to get the nomination.
Finally, it’s not clear why the White House sees the need to attack Deeds, and it shows both a lack of class and a bad character to do so, especially before the election. The Democrats can’t win every election in a swing case and it’s not really much skin off Obama’s back if they lose this particular governor’s race. If the White House is concerned about losing its “aura of invincibility,” it shouldn’t be. No one else with any intelligence perceives such an aura.
Obama may be worried about “spillover effect” in 2010, but he needn’t. That election will turn on how the economy is doing next summer and how the Obama is perceived. No one will be thinking about what happened a year earlier in Virginia.
Perhaps Obama is concerned the congressional Democrats will panic if they see even one or two significant Democratic defeats this fall. That’s possible, but these members can evaluate the situation for themselves. White House spin isn’t likely to guide their thinking.
On the other hand, watching the White House try to throw Deeds under the bus might make an impression.
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