Saturday, August 22, 2009

R. Creigh Deeds worked to invigorate his gubernatorial bid Friday, debuting a new advertisement and delivering a “major campaign address” that emphasized his record as a moderate Democrat in the tradition of Sen. Mark Warner.

The address, delivered at George Mason University in Fairfax, came amid public surveys that show Mr. Deeds trailing his Republican opponent, Robert F. McDonnell, and indications in the polling data that the candidate’s message has been slow to take hold in the crucial voter-rich D.C. suburbs.

But the speech - streamed live on Mr. Deeds’ campaign Web site - contained little in the way of new policy proposals, rather it “brought together a lot of things I’ve been saying,” Mr. Deeds said afterward.

His campaign said the effort was aimed at getting the attention of voters feeling political fatigue who might be just tuning in to the election.

The campaign did not acknowledge any difficulties in Northern Virginia, which has been crucial to Democrats who have had enormous success in statewide and federal elections in recent years. Bolstered by a growing Democratic population in Northern Virginia, Democrats took gubernatorial races in 2001 and 2005, and the state’s two U.S. Senate seats in 2004 and 2008. Barack Obama last year became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1964.

According to a survey earlier this month by the nonpartisan Raleigh, N.C.-based Public Policy Polling, Mr. Deeds holds just a seven-percentage-point advantage, 51-44, over Mr. McDonnell in Northern Virginia.

“We just thought it was important to lay out some difference and do it in Northern Virginia to make a statement about what the defining issues are,” Mr Deeds told reporters after the speech.

In front of just over 100 supporters, including several state senators and delegates, Mr. Deeds said he would govern in the tradition of Mr. Warner, who remains enormously popular in public polls, and Gov. Tim Kaine “to create educational opportunity and new jobs to promote our economic progress.”

He branded Mr. McDonnell as a supporter of the economic policies of former President George W. Bush.

“Just recently [Mr. McDonnell] said he believes President Bush did a good job and created - and I’m quoting here - an economic revival in America,” Mr. Deeds said.

Mr. Deeds highlighted Mr. McDonnell’s legislative proposals on divisive social issues that included 35 bills restricting abortion and four bills “to create a different class of marriage.”

“This single-minded crusade has been his priority and focus. He believes that his social agenda should come before sound public policy and his record - his career in politics - reflects it,” Mr. Deeds said.

Republicans were quick to react to the speech.

McDonnell campaign spokesman J. Tucker Martin dismissed the address, saying it just underscores “that Creigh Deeds has no vision to offer.”

“That was the most backwards-looking speech ever given by a Virginia gubernatorial nominee. If Creigh Deeds thinks blowing the dust off an old political playbook amounts to a major new announcement, he doesn’t get what the voters of Virginia are looking for in their next governor. Virginians need jobs and opportunity. Instead, Creigh Deeds is focused on history lessons about former governors and presidents, and trying to bring back old-time wedge politics to tear Virginians apart,” Mr. Martin said.

The push by the Deeds campaign comes after The Washington Post, which endorsed Mr. Deeds in the Democratic Party primary in June and sparked what had to that point been a longshot campaign against two better-known and better-funded competitors, released polling numbers showing Mr. McDonnell with a decisive lead as summer draws to a close.

The Post poll released Sunday shows the Republican with a 47 percent to 40 percent lead over Mr. Deeds among registered voters and a 54 percent to 39 percent lead among voters who say they are certain to vote.

That poll showed Mr. Deeds with just a 45 percent to 42 percent lead over Mr. McDonnell in Northern Virginia.

At the conclusion of the Deeds address Friday, the campaign played a new television advertisement that will air throughout the state except in Northern Virginia. In the 30-second advertisement Mr. Deeds appeared with a variety of residents and is seen walking with Mr. Warner.

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