Deeds beats McAuliffe, Moran in stunner

The Democratic primary in Virginia yesterday pitted a veteran political fixer and former head of the national party, Terry McAuliffe, against Brian Moran, the brother of a popular and powerful Congressman.  Creigh Deeds, a state legislator with more conservative credentials, barely got mentioned in political analyses.  Yet yesterday he not only beat the favored McAuliffe and Moran, but he beat them both combined and in every area of the state to grab the nomination for governor:

R. Creigh Deeds, a longtime state legislator from rural Bath County, won a stunning come-from-behind victory in the Democratic primary for Virginia governor last night, overwhelming a pair of better-funded and better-positioned opponents.

Deeds beat Brian Moran and Terry McAuliffe in every region of the state, including vote-rich Northern Virginia, despite a pro-gun stance and relatively conservative positions that are out of line with many of the area’s voters. His victory was so dominant that he captured 10 of the state’s 11 congressional districts, including the one held by Moran’s brother, U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr.

All three campaigns and state political experts had agreed that Deeds was coming on strong in the final days of the race, but no one expected him — or the other candidates — to come close to winning the 50 percent of the vote that he captured. In an e-mail sent to supporters less than two hours before polls closed, McAuliffe’s campaign predicted that “this thing could come down to the wire.” McAuliffe came in second, with 26 percent of the vote, followed by Brian Moran with 24 percent.

Deeds, 51, will face Republican Robert F. McDonnell in a general election battle that amounts to a rematch of the race for attorney general four years ago, which McDonnell barely won after a late surge by Deeds.

Any time McAuliffe gets a setback, it seems like a win for Republicans.  Furthermore, the overwhelming victory for a relative conservative in Virginia should be good news for the GOP.  Unfortunately, that pits a conservative Democrat against a conservative Republican in a state that has gone purple the last few cycles.  Bob McDonnell would have an easier time painting McAuliffe as too liberal and out of touch for most Virginians, while Deeds showed that he can compete anywhere in the state.

Jim Geraghty sees a bright spot in the numbers:

The good news for Creigh Deeds: He won Arlington County by a stunning margin: 47.2 percent to Moran’s 36.8 percent and McAuliffe’s 15.9 percent.

The good news for Republican Bob McDonnell: Deeds did so with 9,308 votes. When Tim Kaine won that county in 2005’s general election, he did so with 42,319 votes.

If the GOP wants to rebuild its coalition of states for winning the Presidency, it has to start in Virginia, a state it never should have lost in the first place.  We’ll talk more with Jim today on The Ed Morrissey Show about this race and its import for the national scene.