Thursday, October 1, 2009

Did Deeds Fall for a Trap?

This may sound too Machiavellian for most of you, but I am starting to wonder if the release of Bob McDonnell's college thesis was simply a cleverly designed trap which the hapless Creigh Deeds fell into. That is trap Deeds into talking about something which would ultimately hurt is campaign. I can hear the laughter, but think about it, McDonnell chose to release the thesis, and one could argue that the Deeds campaign decision to make an issue out of it is actually hurting Deeds.

Conventional wisdom would say McDonnell was simply trying to put his spin on the thesis which was bound to get out. But I am not so sure it would have gotten out. I doubt anyone in opposition research, or with the Washington Post, would have decided to wade through a hundred page thesis, written twenty years ago, in the hopes of finding some damning quotes. Most would conclude who cares about his college papers.

In any event, after reading about the existence of the thesis in the Washington Post the Deeds campaign decided to make it the centerpiece of their campaign. Shouldn't the fact that McDonnell first brought up the paper have raised a red flag with state Democrats? Shouldn't they have wondered, why are we in effect using information given to us by the Republican candidate?

The Deeds campaign may think that the issue of the thesis has helped them cut McDonnell's lead, but recent polls may suggest the opposite.

It is true that most polls show that since the summer Deeds has made up great ground, but it was inevitable that in such a politically divided state there would be some inevitable tightening - indeed most pundits expected a virtually even race by labor day. Deeds gains owe little to the McDonnell's thesis, rather many Democrat leaning voters have just naturally come home. This was to be expected.

However, since Deeds has been talking about the thesis he has lost 7 points according to a recent Rasmussen poll, and two points according to survey USA.

How does the paper hurt Deeds? Every time Deeds talks about the thesis he is not talking about issues that the people of Virginia care about. And in my opinion many, if not most Virginians, feel it is inherently unfair to use someone's 20 year old college paper against them. In fact Deeds talking about a 20 year old college paper turns off more voters. Voters may wonder, why is this being talked about, when the economy is in the tank?

Was the release of the paper a trap? I doubt it, but Deeds talking about it can only hurt his chances in November. My guess is that soon Deeds will drop the subject, and all reference to the paper will be removed from his ads.

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