Friday, October 30, 2009

Not a Referendum on Obama

It looks fairly certain that Democrat Creigh Deeds will lose on Tuesday, and with his loss, the Democrats will relinquish their 8 year hold on the Virginia Governors mansion. Most of the talking heads in Washington claim that the responsibility for the inevitable Deeds loss lies at the feet of President Obama. They reason that Obama’s unpopularity, like an anchor, helped pull Deeds down. Some even suggest that this election is a referendum on Obama’s first year in office - a vote of no confidence if you will.

However, according to a recent Washington Post poll seven in 10 Virginia voters say their views of President Obama will not be a factor in their choice for governor. The Post poll suggests that those who say Obama is a factor in how they will vote are about evenly divided between those who say their vote will be motivated by their desire to express support for the president and those who want to voice opposition to him.
The fact is Deeds will lose because he ran a negative, issue less campaign, and rather than display leadership and take positions, he instead opted to tell voters that he would appoint commissions, and that, “all things are on the table.” Deeds lack of a message, and the fact the Bob McDonnell is a great candidate are the biggest factors in his defeat, not what is going on in Washington.

Now it is true that over the last 30 years the party of the president has lost the governor's mansion, and it is true that the political winds coming out of Washington have not been favorable to Deeds. Since last year’s election the Obama magic has worn off. He is pushing unpopular positions such as health care reform, which includes billions in new spending and more Federal power, cap and trade, and most Virginians now see him as simply another liberal politician. So perhaps there is a more favorable view towards Republicans in the air. But Deeds still could have won this race.

How bad has the Deeds campaign been? Well, I have been following Virginia politics for 20 years and frankly the only gubernatorial campaign that rivals the hapless Deeds campaign would be the Mary Sue Terry campaign in 1993. That year Terry barely got 40 percent of the vote, I think Deeds will do slightly better on Tuesday, but like Terry, Deeds failed to give voters reasons, or a reason, to vote for him.

In June it looked like maybe Deeds had a chance, however, after he won the Democrat nomination he immediately started to attack Bob McDonnell. He made a big mistake by attacking McDonnell over a 20 year old college paper, while failing to come up with a transportation plan. Instead of a plan he promised Virginians a “blue ribbon commission”, to make recommendations. To many voters this is an abdication of leadership. Voters wanted to know what he would do, not that he would leave the details to others, and then sign on to what they came up with.

Deeds said he would sign a tax increase, but wouldn’t push for it, he said he would he was against the public option on healthcare, but wouldn’t commit to pulling Virginia out of such a plan. He claimed he was in favor of ‘right to work’, but wouldn’t speak out against card check legislation which is now before the Congress.

Deeds tried to portray McDonnell as an ultra conservative, out of the mainstream, and dangerous. These attacks backfired, because the people of Virginia didn’t buy that portrayal, and as a result developed a distrust of Deeds. McDonnell is bright, articulate and is a conservative, who offers solutions that appeal to suburban voters.

McDonnell will win on Tuesday because Virginians view him as the more effective leader, more honest and more in line with their values.
You can blame Obama for the mess in Washington, but not for Creigh Deeds.

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