Creigh Deeds has been a disappointment as the Democratic nominee for governor of Virginia.
While he was preferable to one of his Democratic primary foes — veteran party bagman Terry McAuliffe — Deeds lacked the ideas, the personality and the drive of the third candidate in that race, Brian Moran.
But Moran and McAuliffe beat each other up, split votes among key constituencies and assured a Deeds victory.
Since securing the nomination, Deeds has stumbled more than he has soared in one of 2009’s two off-year gubernatorial contests. His unfocused campaign has stirred a fierce internal — and sometimes external — debate among Democratic strategiests who says Deeds has got to get his act together.
The contest is a big deal beyond Virginia. The results — like those from the other off-year state, New Jersey — will be read for indications of the popular appeal of the parties and of the presidency of Barack Obama. That may not be fair, let alone accurate, but everyone is looking for measures of the administration’s strength, especially in states where the Democratic president scored breakthrough wins in 2008.
So far this fall, Deeds has been failing the test.
With the Virginia vote barely two weeks away, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee trails by seven to nine points in the polls.
There are those who trace Deeds’ troubles to the waning of Barack Obama’s appeal in Virginia and, no doubt, Obama has lost some of the luster that made him the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the state in decades.
But Obama remains popular in northern Virginia.
Deeds, on the other hand, is having trouble exciting Democrats in the vote rich suburbs of Washington, DC, that should be his base in the race with Republican Robert McDonnell.
McDonnell, a former legislator and state attorney general, is an agile campaigner and he has, for the most part, succeeded in projecting a moderate image in this year’s campaign. That’s helped the Republican attract support in areas where recent Republican nominees have been rejected — and where Democratic gubernatorial, senate and presidential candidates have in recent years built the majorities that have moved the once very-conservative and quite-Republican state of Virginia into the “swing state” column.
But McDonnell is no moderate.
And The Washington Post, in a odd-but-potentially-effective endorsement of Deeds, drives the point home with a directness rarely seen these days in newspaper declarations.