A week ago I departed on vacation, knowing that in my home state of Virginia, it was unlikely that Republican Bob McDonnell would lose a double-digit lead over Democrat Creigh Deeds in the gubernatorial race while I was gone.
I return asking the same question I was asking before I left: So what is Creigh Deeds’s campaign about? The recent drum-pounding on abortion seemed like a sign that polling in the Washington suburbs was subpar for a Democrat. And looking around my Alexandria neighborhood, with its closed-down flower shop, closed-down coffee shop, closed-down day spa, and restaurant now closed during lunch hours, one wonders if even suburban soccer moms want to hear a candidate going on about abortion relentlessly.
Deeds has unveiled his first television ad of the general election, and it’s a little better:
A couple of things jump out at me. Deeds emphasizes his ties to former governor (now senator) Mark Warner, and not the current Democratic governor, Tim Kaine. Four years ago, Kaine won by attaching himself, parasite-like, to his predecessor Warner and pledging to be every bit as moderate and noncontroversial. I know the Virginia Republican party felt that if they were going to win this race, Tim Kaine’s approval rating and popularity could not remain as high as Warner’s were in fall 2005. It’s late August, but so far, if Deeds is afraid to show Kaine in his commercials, mission accomplished.
Second, this is a remarkably fiscally conservative ad, a sign of a Democrat recognizing he’s now campaigning in Tea Party America. In its opening moments, it talks about the need for “pro-business” policies, and then engages in some Bush-bashing, even though we were constantly told that Bush was a stooge of big business.
The first promise of this ad is to “cut taxes.” In a recent chat with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Governor Kaine said that he was willing to raise taxes to pay for transportation improvements. In fact, Deeds pledges a “tax cut for any business that creates one new job.” If I hire a cleaning service, lawn guy or a nanny, do I qualify? The visual at this moment is Deeds looking over a house blueprint at a construction site. Maybe he’s explaining to the contractor that under cap-and-trade, he has to stop building that house immediately.
“Performance audits for all government spending” — again, it’s revealing that a Democrat feels the need to emphasize this in his first ad of the general election. I’d credit the stimulus for that.
Beyond that, it’s a really generic ad — “I believe Virginia’s brightest days are ahead,” schools, transportation, etc. Maybe it will get Deeds some traction — clearly the absence of ads hasn’t helped him any — but again, you get the feeling the Deeds campaign just keeps throwing stuff up against a wall and hoping some of it sticks.
Also missing from this ad? The word “Democrat.”
UPDATE: I’m pretty sure this line from a Richmond-Times Dispatch columnist is not meant as a compliment: “Creigh Deeds makes George W. Bush sound like Barack Obama.”