E. J. Dionne wrote about Virginia yesterday. He argues that Deeds made a big mistake by distancing himself from Obama. But nowhere does he take account of one of the fundamental reasons he did it: McDonnell pounded him on Obama-Pelosi positions on national issues that just don’t play very well in Virginia: vast deficit spending, card check, cap-and-trade, and the ban on off-shore drilling. While Obama is still pretty popular in Virginia, his positions increasingly aren’t — especially among independents — and that allowed McDonnell to use them against Deeds. I find it far-fetched that if only Deeds had embraced Obama more fully, he’d have mobilized enough of Obama’s 2008 voters to win. Obama’s remaining personal popularity is not transferable — it’s not going to make another Democrat more likable, articulate, historic, inspiring, hopeful, etc. Dionne also apparently takes some comfort in the fact that McDonnell had to appeal to the center with policies tackling practical problems. As if that takes the sting out of McDonnell’s impending victory. But if conservative candidates can mobilize their base while wooing the center with innovative policy proposals grounded in basic conservative principles, the Right is genuinely on the comeback trail. I write about this (yet again) in my column today.
One additional perspective from Richmond that you should highlight … on why McDonnell’s campaign has been so successful this season: egos were set aside (when’s the last time you heard THAT happening?) and a contentious and expensive GOP primary was avoided. Bob McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling came to a gentleman’s agreement last year on who should seek the top chair. IF Gov. Tim Kaine had accepted a DC job and Bolling ascended to become His Excellency (gotta love that title for our governor), McDonnell would run for re-election as AG (or possibly Lt. Gov.) while Bolling sought a full 4-year term.
Bill Bolling recognized that the party didn’t need an expensive primary; probably realized that Bob would be a better top-ticket in ‘09; and Bill decided to run for re-election as Lt Gov. Meanwhile, Democrats Deeds, Moran and McAuliffe tore each other to shreds in an ugly primary. McDonnell and Bolling spent the winter and spring raising funds and projecting unity.
If Bolling and McDonnell had scrapped and one limped away from a primary battle, we might well be looking at a different scenario next Tuesday.