Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Deeds' "Obama" problem

The Virginian Pilot today reports that President Barack Obama will begin to campaign in Virginia for the Democratic candidate for governor, Creigh Deeds. On August 6, in McLean, the president and Deeds will headline a public rally at the Hilton, and then a private fundraiser that evening for the candidate.

To many, this is a no-brainer. President Obama is very popular in the commonwealth, even in light of recent setbacks for his agenda and the occassional misstep on air. Campaigning here in a traditionally conservative though increasingly moderate state both gives Deeds a chance to rally the sometimes dormant left-leaning voters and gives the president the opportunity to garner support for his own initiatives. There doesn't seem to be a downside, either, since we currently are represented by two Democrats in the U.S. Senate and the Chairman of the DNC is our current governor. (You can expect all three to campaign for Deeds, as well.) As strong as the Democratic party is in Virginia, and as "damaged" as the Republican brand has become, it would seem like a walk-on election, as it was last fall.

However, we are still a center-right state, in a center-right country. As the article points out, Deeds still trails his GOP opponent, Bob McDonnell, in the race, though not by much at this point. The first gubernatorial debate was held last Saturday between Deeds and McDonnell, and many news outlets agree that McDonnell did a better job.

The Pilot gives a brief rundown of the debate format, then gets into one of the key issues discussed: Virginia's roads problem. McDonnell outlined both his plan and how to pay for it, while Deeds relied mainly on criticism of McDonnell's plan and a pledge to discuss the issue of how to pay for transportation overhaul and reform with the General Assembly once he had been sworn into office.

The Washington Post notes that McDonnell was "on the offensive" for much of the debate, which is a good way to be in an election. While both candidates were able to pin their opponent to some of their party's less attractive moments (and members), they mainly stuck to the issues; and it was on the issues that McDonnell held the advantage.

VirginiaTalks.com sponsored the debate, and they'll soon have the full debate available on their website.

The president ran on a message of hope and change last year, which, while inspiring, was also light on details and relied on the public's mistrust of Republicans. The country was weary, and more than a little angry, and we just wanted things to change. In my view, though, that anger was caused less by Republicans than it was by politicians who just generally didn't know what they were doing; Republicans simply made a good target. Remember, the country is still composed of forty percent conservatives, forty percent moderates, and twenty percent liberal. Obama didn't win the election by pandering to the left; he won by convincing the center that he would do the better job.

That's what Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell are trying to do; except right now, McDonnell is succeeding. It's not that Deeds doesn't have any ideas, or that his ideas are bad; I actually like some of his ideas. But McDonnell has been taking his ideas to the voters, presenting them to the people who will decide the election. Deeds hasn't done as good a job of that. People still have questions about Deeds' positions on issues, like tax increases and some of his party's signature issues. Even the Washington Post pointed out that McDonnell had to force Deeds to "take positions" on recent federal legislation that could be harmful to Virginia.

Deeds' problem is, we're finally starting to direct our anger. We no longer want a politician who tells us that he'll fix our problems; we want one who will tell us how he'll do it. Deeds can't win Virginia if he acts like Obama. Obama's already done that; and Virginians won't elect another politician who makes vague promises. We want straight answers and clear solutions, and we are going to elect a governor who provides them.

He doesn't need to stop campaigning with the president; but it would help if he stopped campaigning like the president.

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