Deeds Needs Sleeping Giants, Game Changers To Win

Deeds Needs Sleeping Giants, Game Changers To Win

By Kyle Trygstad - October 20, 2009

The Commonwealth of Virginia is in the midst of a Democratic victory streak that polls show could come to a halt in two weeks. Bob McDonnell, the Republican nominee for governor, has led his Democratic opponent in every poll over the last four months, and currently stands ahead by more than 9 points in the RealClearPolitics Average.

For Creigh Deeds, a longtime Democratic state legislator, to win, his campaign knows it must reach the voters that turned Virginia blue in the 2008 presidential election for the first time in 44 years. Deeds will get some help from the man that won that election, President Barack Obama, on Oct. 27, and today he received an assist from the previous Democratic president, Bill Clinton.

Introducing Clinton at a Northern Virginia rally Tuesday was Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton fundraiser who was trounced by Deeds in the June primary. In his brief and energized remarks, McAuliffe acknowledged Deeds' poor poll positioning.

"It's going to be the greatest comeback in the history of American politics," said McAuliffe, overstating the point.

Clinton referred to the polls as well, saying they're "both accurate and they're not."

"Are the polls right?" said Clinton. "The answer is yes, no and maybe. Yes, the polls are an accurate measure of whatever group they talked to in proportion of each other. So, if on Election Day that profile shows up -- you have to change minds. The no answer is -- that's not the profile of the people that already voted in the primary, which was an open primary, or in the general election in 2008."

The maybe answer, he said, is what Deeds supporters and volunteers do over the next two weeks to get more Democrats to the polls.

The campaign is targeting surge voters, ones that don't vote regularly at a high percentage -- African Americans, students and young professionals -- the kind of voters that turned out last November. The Deeds campaign calls them the "sleeping giants" and maintains they don't often make it through polling firms' call screens.

Deeds campaign manager Joe Abbey told reporters yesterday on a conference call that they have targeted 500,000 surge voters with the help of the Democratic National Committee, through which e-mails are sent to Obama's list of Virginia supporters on a daily basis. They've taken "the best practices from the Obama campaign" to get their activists going, Abbey said.

"The expectation isn't that we'll get all of them out, which would be great. But 100,000 here, 200,000 there is what it will take for us to win," said Abbey. "If they show up on Election Day, it will be game over."

The Deeds campaign is also hoping to get a turnout boost from its endorsement by The Washington Post, which also endorsed him in the primary. It had a campaign ad on the air within 24 hours of the Sunday endorsement, which was as much a recrimination of McDonnell's policies as it was glowing support for Deeds.

McDonnell, the Post wrote, "offers something different" than Deeds: "a blizzard of bogus, unworkable, chimerical proposals, repackaged as new ideas, that crumble on contact with reality. They would do little if anything to build a better transportation system."

Unlike the primary, though, when polls showed McAuliffe and Brian Moran voters moving toward Deeds following the endorsement, The Post's support isn't expected to have the same impact on McDonnell voters. However, it could push suburban Democrats and exurban, Reagan Democrats in Northern Virginia to turn out in opposition to McDonnell.

"I think it's certainly helpful, and something a lot of folks around Northern Virginia and the rest of Virginia will take a look at," Deeds adviser Mo Elleithee said of the endorsement. "We turned around an ad pretty quickly because we wanted to make sure as many as possible knew about that."

But, he cautioned, there isn't "going to be one game changer. I think the Washington Post endorsement was helpful, but it's just a piece."

By mid-September, Deeds began to close in the polls after trailing in August by double digits. The campaign got help from The Washington Post, once again, when it published an article detailing a thesis paper McDonnell had written in graduate school in 1989. Among other socially conservative points made in the paper, McDonnell wrote that working women were detrimental to the family.

After a month-long onslaught of negative ads from the Deeds campaign, voters became turned off and McDonnell's lead increased once again. A poll released Monday night by Christopher Newport University showed McDonnell ahead by 14 points.

The two candidates will face off tonight in a debate that the Deeds campaign hopes will be, along with the Post endorsement and appearances alongside the two most recent Democratic presidents, one in a string of game-changing events to take place over the last two weeks.


Kyle Trygstad is a Washington correspondent for RealClearPolitics. Email him at: Follow him on Twitter @KyleTrygstad.

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