Two weeks out from Virginia’s election, the prospects for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds look so bad that the White House has bugged out early from Deeds’ side. The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration has become worried about how a Republican will make them look, and have begun leaking criticisms of the campaign. The leaks intend to pre-empt any analysis that uses Virginia as a measure of how Barack Obama’s power and popularity have weakened since his inauguration:
Sensing that victory in the race for Virginia governor is slipping away, Democrats at the national level are laying the groundwork to blame a loss in a key swing state on a weak candidate who ran a poor campaign that failed to fully embrace President Obama until days before the election.
Senior administration officials have expressed frustration with how Democrat R. Creigh Deeds has handled his campaign for governor, refusing early offers of strategic advice and failing to reach out to several key constituencies that helped Obama win Virginia in 2008, they say.
Democratic strategists said that over the summer, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) offered Deeds advice on winning a statewide election. Among other things, Kaine, who is also chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told Deeds that he should lay out more of his own vision and stop attacking Republican Robert F. McDonnell so ferociously. But Deeds did not embrace the advice, according to a national Democratic strategist.
A senior administration official said Deeds badly erred on several fronts, including not doing a better job of coordinating with the White House. “I understood in the beginning why there was some reluctance to run all around the state with Barack Obama,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly about the race. “You don’t do that in Virginia. But when you consider the African American turnout that they need, and then when you consider as well they’ve got a huge problem with surge voters, younger voters, we were just a natural for them.”
A second administration official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Obama, Kaine and others had drawn a road map to victory in Virginia. Deeds chose another path.”
Not only have they not waited until the body was cold, the White House couldn’t wait until the corpse actually died to start burying Deeds in criticism. As for not embracing Obama enough, that will come as some surprise to Deeds. He has embraced higher taxes, which the Post used for its endorsement, remained open to the public option for health care reform, and embraced Obama on stage.
Everyone understands what was at stake for the Obama administration. Even if Deeds ran a campaign that was as arms-length as the White House claims, they would have trumpeted a win in Virginia as an endorsement of their agenda. They want the press to either make the same claim in a defeat — that Deeds ran against the Obama agenda and lost because of it — or that it has nothing to do with the White House at all.
That’s simply hogwash. Virginia has been a blue state for the last two cycles, at least on a national level. Obama won the state by 230,000 votes in 2008, about seven points, and Virginia has two Democrats in the Senate. If Deeds loses Virginia in a landslide, where many Beltway insiders live, that says quite a bit about the prospects of Barack Obama around the rest of the country.
Update: I meant to say, “If Deeds loses Virginia in a landslide,” but having it as Obama losing it is almost equally applicable. I edited the passage to bring it to my original intent, but there’s little doubt that a Republican landslide in VA means Obama lost the state.