As an old football player, I’m only too familiar with the phenomenon of the “Monday morning quarterback.” But the Democratic party, and specifically, the Obama White House political operation, have a new variation: They’re now doing Monday morning analyses in advance of the game. And in the case of the Virginia Governor’s race, the Democrats seem engaged in Friday mourning for their candidate, R. Creigh Deeds.
Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, Bob McDonnell, holds a comfortable lead in every published poll. McDonnell seems to have weathered the worst that the Washington Post could throw at him. The Post dredged up McDonnell’s Master’s thesis, written some twenty years ago, and tried to hang its clumsily-worded themes around the mature candidate’s neck.
The Post stories--which they stretched out for nearly a week of extensive front-page coverage--suggested that Bob McDonnell had a problem with women in the work force. McDonnell mildly replied that his wife--mother of his five children--and his daughter either had been or were currently in the paid labor force. McDonnell’s ads featured his daughter as a serving Army officer in Iraq. The point of the attack--that McDonnell was some kind of Neanderthal--never really interested Virginia voters. And when Creigh Deeds focused on this “issue” in his relentless attack ads, the strategy merely earned him the unenviable sobriquet “dirty Deeds.”
Deeds’ campaign seems not to have caught fire this fall. White House political operatives--on condition of anonymity, of course, are trying to discount the loss they anticipate in the Old Dominion. “Deeds ignored advice, White House says” reads the latest front-page headline in the Post. If you’re the team quarterback in Virginia, that’s hardly the press coverage you need to see less than two weeks from game day.
The story details how Deeds failed to reach out to “several key constituencies” in Virginia. The Barack Obama campaign in 2008 was the first Democratic presidential campaign to carry Virginia since 1964, so those national Democrats had earned some bragging rights, they felt.
What a difference a year makes. Then, it was all hope and change. Barack Obama’s well-oiled campaign in Virginia operated smoothly from 82 local election headquarters. The McCain campaign had only one state headquarters operation, and it was co-located with the national campaign.
But this year, Virginians’ attention is focused on a still anemic economy, on a health care takeover that has a majority of Americans deeply concerned, and on cap and trade (some call it “cap and tax”) legislation that threatens to cut into some key Virginia industries. Bob McDonnell’s focus on jobs, transportation, education, and taxes seems closer to Virginians’ real concerns and closer, frankly, to the earth, than Creigh Deeds’ airborne assault campaign.
McDonnell did not get flustered when Deeds launched blistering attack ads. Nor did he wilt under the harsh glare of the Post’s attention. He has been well-served by his calm, thoughtful, and sincere manner.
The Post’s coverage seems almost to concede the Virginia race. It quotes unnamed White House officials saying they see “almost no way” for Deeds to come from behind to pull out a win. Their effort now seems to be to isolate this defeat, if defeat it becomes, and maintain that any candidate who fully embraces the Obama administration’s ambitious plans will do just fine. What else could they say?
McDonnell, meanwhile, has gone out of his way to appeal to last fall’s Obama voters, many of whom are clearly having second thoughts about the mountain range of debt already run up by congressional Democrats. Sheila Johnson, a leading black businesswoman, is featured in a McDonnell TV spot. She’s a Democrat for McDonnell, she says.
Another key defection from the Deeds campaign is L. Douglas Wilder. Wilder, the first black Governor of Virginia, is widely respected in Democratic circles. Wilder has not endorsed McDonnell, but he has very publicly refused to endorse Creigh Deeds. His statement explaining his reasons laid out stinging criticisms of the Democrats’ struggling candidate.
Conservatives should not slack their efforts in Virginia, or in any of the other key races--New Jersey’s governorship or New York’s 23rd congressional district. Abraham Lincoln spoke for us when he dismissed Union General Joe Hooker’s bragging. “May God have mercy on General Lee, for I shall have none,” Hooker said days before the battle of Chancellorsville. Hooker went on to a humiliating defeat there. Lincoln saw it coming, saying of Hooker’s boastful talk: “The hen is is the wisest of birds; she only cackles after she has laid the egg.”
Now is no time for cackling. It’s the time for hard work.