- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2009

President Obama went to Northern Virginia on Thursday night to provide a midsummer boost to state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds’ campaign for governor.

It was the president’s first joint-appearance with Mr. Deeds, whose campaign has gotten off to a slow start since his surprising come-from-behind primary victory two months ago.

Mr. Obama spoke fondly of Mr. Deeds, noting their similar histories as state senators for eight years, their fatherhood of daughters and their odd names.

“Creigh Deeds and I both have, let’s face it, sort of funny names - still trying to figure out the spelling of Creigh,” the president said to the more than 1,000 delighted Democratic supporters at the McLean Hilton in Tysons Corner.

Mr. Obama praised Mr. Deeds’ work for the state as a prosecutor, delegate and state senator, cataloging Mr. Deeds’ accomplishments including his authorship of Megan’s Law, advocacy for the Amber Alert System and protection of the environment and open spaces.

The president said Mr. Deeds helped usher in and would continue the smart fiscal policies under Mark Warner, a former governor and now a U.S. senator, and Gov. Tim Kaine. Those policies have guided the state through the worst fiscal crisis since the recession, the president said.

Mr. Obama said Mr. Deeds was instrumental in handling an earlier fiscal crisis that beset the state before Mr. Warner took office as governor. He also said Mr. Deeds was part of the team that reformed the state budget and controlled spending, laying a foundation for Virginia’s growth.

“Creigh will continue the progress that has been made in this great commonwealth, especially when it comes to education,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Deeds stressed the importance that Virginia must place on its education system, and he criticized Republican candidate Robert F. McDonnell for transportation proposals he said would reduce education funding by $5.4 billion over 10 years.

Mr. Deeds also stressed the progress the state has made under the last two Democratic governors.

“One thing I know as I travel around the commonwealth is this: Virginians don’t want to go back. Virginia can’t afford to go back. Virginians want and deserve to move our commonwealth forward,” Mr. Deeds said.

Mr. Obama spoke at length about his economic initiatives, saying that his critics appear to have “selective memory” about the state of the country when he took office. He said he wanted to “set the record straight” and reminded the crowd that when he came to office the country appeared on the brink of a fiscal collapse - losing 700,000 jobs a month, with banks on the verge of collapse. And he spoke about the need to pass health care reform.

Both topics in recent weeks have garnered Mr. Deeds criticism from Republicans who charge that he won’t take a stand on national issues affecting the race.

Recent polls have Mr. McDonnell leading Mr. Deeds. During a fundraiser before Thursday’s event, Mr. Obama acknowledged the difficult days ahead for the Deeds campaign. He said “Let’s be honest. This is going to be a tough race.”

The president also said that while Virginia is “moving in the right direction, it is still a purple state” and that the “key right now is making sure we fight through the doubt, fight through the cynicism.”

The Deeds campaign also on Thursday debuted a redesigned Web site and a targeted advertising campaign reminiscent of the grass-roots effort that helped Mr. Obama claim victory in a state that hadn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.

Mr. Obama’s ability to energize voters and bring people to the polls are considered mandatory for a Deeds victory in November, with the latest poll showing many Democrats disinclined to vote in the governor’s race.

Mr. Obama encouraged the Democrats on Thursday night not to let the gains made in Virginia slip away and to knock on doors and make phone calls to ensure Mr. Deeds is elected so he can continue policies laid out by Mr. Warner and Mr. Kaine.

Speaking of the state leaders, Mr. Obama said, “They know leadership is more than about managing crisis, it is about making smart decisions for the future even in the toughest times.

“That is what Creigh Deeds will do. And that is why every single one of you will have to do the work to put him in office to carry on that tradition of leadership, to bring about a brighter future for a generation of Virginians.”

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