The Campaign Spot

Creigh Deeds’s Identity Crisis

Ramesh is discussing Creigh Deeds’s sudden emphasis on the abortion issue over at the Washington Post.

I’d just add a few notes. Republicans are lucky this year to have a candidate who projects likability, sensibility, and decency; Bob McDonnell’s record in the state legislature and his term as attorney general haven’t really left any low-hanging fruit for his opposition. Every once in a while, a left-of-center blogger will insist that the fact that McDonnell got his JD from Regent University means he’s a clone of Pat Robertson, but that’s proving a tough sell. (He also went to Notre Dame on an Army ROTC scholarship and has an MSBA from Boston University.) McDonnell didn’t have a primary, and he has spent the whole year beating the drum on what once were considered Democratic issues — the economy, education, transportation. This is not a Republican who will write off the suburban soccer moms. There’s no guarantee he’ll win, but so far, you would have to say he’s making the right moves in this political environment.

No doubt, Creigh Deeds brought his own strengths to this general-election matchup. It’s pretty much impossible to paint him as some urban elitist liberal. But as I laid out here, Deeds’s legislative career is marked by a certain political flexibility and what some would call opportunism. (Four years ago he was running ads on his “conservative values”; now he’s pro-gun-control and pro-choice, and regrets his vote against gay marriage.)

In lieu of a coherent policy platform and governing agenda, Deeds does a bang-up job of emphasizing his rural roots, for what that’s worth; there’s some indication that some liberals in the state are tiring of it. But this isn’t the electorate that in 2005 (and arguably in 2001) was looking for an excuse to vote for a Democrat.

It’s great that people know that Deeds is the kind of guy who likes to fish and likes to hunt and likes to feed his mule. Virginians seem a bit less certain about the kinds of policies he would pursue; his refusal to release a detailed transportation plan until after Election Day does not reassure.

So now the Deeds message is that he’s the down-home, salt-of-the-earth, back-country guy who really, really supports abortion. Maybe he’s got some secret polling that reveals that as the sweet spot of the Virginia electorate; most likely it’s a symptom of what happens to you when you don’t know who you are beyond the humble, Andy Griffith image.

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