President Barack Obama is Creigh Deeds’ best chance in the race for Virginia governor—and it appears to be an increasingly slim one at that. The Democrat’s latest TV ad, which debuted Wednesday, puts the president front and center in an attempt to mobilize the base and bolster Democratic turnout...
“I think it’s very clear what we’re trying to get across in that ad,” Deeds Campaign Manager Joe Abbey tells Politics. “It’s kind of capturing some of the energy from last year and utilizing the president’s popularity, especially amongst the voters who voted for the first time because of him.”
The message underscores the bleak turnout dynamic facing Democrats in Virginia’s odd-year election. New numbers out today from Public Policy Polling not only give Republican Bob McDonnell a 12 point lead over Deeds, they suggest that a good portion of Democrats are likely to sit on their hands this Election Day….
McDonnell also has a whopping 60 to 31 point lead among independents in the latest poll. Last November, Obama edged John McCain among independent voters 49 to 48 percent—a major factor in winning the state. The latest Rasmussen poll has McDonnell leading by 7 points, and the most recent numbers from Mason-Dixon have the Republican up 8 points.“And while Barack Obama won Virginia by six points last year, the voters planning to turn out this fall supported John McCain by six points, a clear indication that many Democratic voters are just planning to stay at home. That lack of Democratic enthusiasm has been the story for much of the general election campaign. 56% of McDonnell supporters say they're 'very excited' about voting this fall while only 34% of Deeds' backers share that sentiment.”
Political analyst Larry Sabato says the Obama push is just about the only shot for Deeds. “For someone who distanced himself from Obama earlier, he’s now wrapping himself in Obama’s cloak because there’s no other way to energize the base at this point,” he says.
But piecing together anything close to the coalition that helped President Obama to victory in the state last year may be too tall a task for Deeds. Obama won on the strength of soaring turnout in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, and his performance among young voters, women and blacks. PPP’s latest numbers show Deeds tied with McDonnell among voters 40 and under, trailing by 8 points among women and garnering just 68 percent of the black vote.
Plus, turnout amongst black voters and younger voters is likely to see a significant decline. Sabato estimates overall turnout will be somewhere between 2.2 and 2.6 million voters. In last year’s presidential contest, some 3.7 million voters cast ballots in Virginia.
“I can guarantee you that missing million and a half voters will be disproportionately Democratic,” says Sabato. “Minorities, the young, and some of the suburbanites who were drawn into the Obama mystique.”
The president is slated to campaign for Deeds in Hampton Roads next Tuesday, where high turnout among black voters was key in 2008. Joe Abbey says the campaign’s latest TV ad is just the most visible aspect of the all-out GOTV strategy aimed at that Obama coalition in the final two weeks.
“We really only need a portion of them to show up on Election Day to make an impact,” says Abbey. “I’ll take a pool of 500,000 voters to try to get 100,000 or 200,000 out any day.”
Shane D’Aprile is senior editor at Politics magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org