Many theories abound about when exactly Deeds lost the race

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Many theories abound about when exactly Deeds lost the race

As expected, Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds got creamed yesterday by Republican Bob McDonnell, losing by about 18 points. The other Democrats running for statewide office didn’t fare much better. And beyond the sweep of statewide offices, Republicans netted at least four more seats in the state House of Delegates. By 9pm, Deeds had already conceded.

The easy explanation revolves around who voted. Exit polls suggest that the demographic slice of people who turned out to vote yesterday was quite different from the set that came out to vote in 2008. Turnout was only 40 percent, and 26,000 fewer people voted this year than in 2005, despite the registration bonanza last year and Virginia’s population gains.

Interpreting an election is usually like interpreting the Bible—you can read into it whatever you want to read. Most national pundits only care about Virginia insofar as what this means for Barack Obama. Everything and nothing, apparently. And anything in between.

The more important question for Democrats in Virginia: When did the Democrats lose the race for governor? Possible answers fall into two major categories—not about Deeds and all about Deeds. Click here to read more.

 

Monticello High School students, left to right, Mariah Shaw, Maddy Cohen, Reed Shaw, and Lucy Miller watch as election results come in during a party for the Democrats at Siips.

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Many theories abound about when exactly Deeds lost the race

  • 0 COMMENTS
Many theories abound about when exactly Deeds lost the race

As expected, Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds got creamed yesterday by Republican Bob McDonnell, losing by about 18 points. The other Democrats running for statewide office didn’t fare much better. And beyond the sweep of statewide offices, Republicans netted at least four more seats in the state House of Delegates. By 9pm, Deeds had already conceded.

 

Monticello High School students, left to right, Mariah Shaw, Maddy Cohen, Reed Shaw, and Lucy Miller watch as election results come in during a party for the Democrats at Siips.

The easy explanation revolves around who voted. Exit polls suggest that the demographic slice of people who turned out to vote yesterday was quite different from the set that came out to vote in 2008. Turnout was only 40 percent, and 26,000 fewer people voted this year than in 2005, despite the registration bonanza last year and Virginia’s population gains.

Interpreting an election is usually like interpreting the Bible—you can read into it whatever you want to read. Most national pundits only care about Virginia insofar as what this means for Barack Obama. Everything and nothing, apparently. And anything in between.

The more important question for Democrats in Virginia: When did the Democrats lose the race for governor? Possible answers fall into two major categories—not about Deeds and all about Deeds.

Creigh Deeds and the horrible, no good, very bad campaign

* All was lost when Deeds failed to come up with a concise message to vote for him and not just against McDonnell. Bob McDonnell’s graduate school thesis alienated enough voters that Deeds was in a statistical dead heat in mid-September. But he failed to attract defecting McDonnell voters with anything vaguely resembling a galvanizing message—“I’m going to be like Mark Warner and Tim Kaine” wasn’t enough this time around.

* All was lost when Deeds failed to court Obama and his supporters early and often. In the last week of the election, President Obama came to a rally in Norfolk for Deeds and appeared in a campaign ad. But by then it was too late. Anonymous sources told the Post that Deeds spurned Obama’s (and Kaine’s) advice in the summer; regardless, Deeds didn’t rush to embrace the president in the campaign’s early goings. When asked at a debate whether he considered himself an Obama Democrat, Deeds said he was a “Creigh Deeds Democrat,” which many took as a distancing from the president—a president very popular with young voters and black voters, two constituencies crucial for a Deeds victory.

* All was lost when Deeds admitted he might raise taxes. Even though Deeds had a lot of caveats attached to that possibility, no candidate is ever allowed to suggest, hint, imply, whisper or intimate—let alone say—that taxes might go up under his watch. Just ask David Slutzky. Or Jon Corzine.

* All was lost when Democrats chose Deeds over McAuliffe in the primary. There are still a few out there who think that Brian Moran should have gotten the nomination, but many more wistful glances are cast back at Terry McAuliffe. At least the prodigal fundraiser wouldn’t have lost the money race, and he could have also out-talked McDonnell. And, despite the thought that Deeds would do well in the Rest of Virginia, it’s hard to imagine McAuliffe doing any worse after looking at the results—Deeds didn’t even win Albemarle County. Some even argue that Deeds, in the end, was too Virginian for Virginia.

It was bigger than Deeds

* All was lost when Democratic candidates couldn’t work out quietly—or at least inexpensively—who would be the nominee. McDonnell, with a big ol’ war chest he didn’t have to deplete in an inner-party battle, got to fire away at Deeds even before the smoke cleared from the June primary. Deeds, meanwhile, had to start scrounging from scratch, and fell behind before he could get started.

* All was lost when the nation’s economy blew up. Voters don’t like slumping economies, and will ship out those under whose watch the slump happened. It was Democratic Governor Tim Kaine, after all, who had to play the bad guy, slashing billions from state budgets and cutting hundreds of jobs. The Republicans already paid the price in Washington, and now it’s the Democrats turn to get the boot in Richmond.

* All was lost when Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election. The statistical darling of the Virginia governor’s race is this: Since 1972, Virginians have elected a governor from the opposite party of the one in the White House. Bill Clinton is elected, so we elect George Allen. Bill Clinton stays elected, so we elect Jim Gilmore. George W. Bush is elected, so we pick Mark Warner, and so on. This narrative reduces Virginia voters to reactive contrarians, or at least risk-averse investors who like to balance their political portfolios. It lets the Democrats off the hook. Unsurprisingly, this was pointed out by Kaine, also the chair of the Democratic National Committee, in his interview with Larry King just after the race was called for McDonnell.

Crazy alternate theory: It was about the other guy

All was lost when McDonnell decided to run. It’s certainly one of the least talked about ideas, but maybe—possibly—the Republicans actually ran a good candidate who could have bested many a sound Democrat, much less Deeds. McDonnell ran a nearly gaffe-less campaign (certainly one with no “macaca” moment), he talked a lot about jobs and the economy, and he found a way to defuse his social conservative past. What are his true colors? We now have four years to find out.

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