|It became more and more obvious that Deeds' negative harping on McDonnell's 1989 thesis was not very effective and damaged him among independents. It is my opinion that the thesis would have been a death knell for McDonnell if it had been uncovered in 2005; however, after McDonnell had served for four years as attorney general without attempting to impose theocratic beliefs on that office, his counter-argument of "that was then, this is now" resonated with voters.
McDonnell's incessant ads with women who had worked in his office in Richmond and with his daughters - one an Iraq War veteran - made the Deeds attacks on the thesis increasingly appear mean-spirited and contributed to a feeling among many independent voters that Creigh Deeds had no positive plan for the state.
Politico called Creigh Deeds' distancing himself from President Obama a "clumsy, toe-stubbing dance around Obama." I agree with the observation that his performance helped depress Democratic turnout, especially among the minority community.
When contacted by Politico, Petts dismissed much of what his memo said as "dated" and noted that the Deeds campaign made strategic shifts in the months that followed. (Yeah, after months of following his awful advice.)
"Indeed, what is notable about Petts's memo is not [just] that it is an especially bad example of campaign advice but that it is entirely characteristic of the genre," Politico's Martin continues.
Written casually but with an air of absolute certainty and filled with the jargon consultants throw around, it is similar to "thousands of such memos that will be churned out over the next twelve months by the political-advice industry."
These consultants pull down big reimbursements by selling the bogus idea that politics is some sort of science, and they are the best practitioners of that "science." That falsehood is more reassuring than the truth: "Voters are fickle, the factors that motivate them are ephemeral, political operatives are often winging it, and even the shrewdest advice...can't compensate for a weak candidate running in a harsh environment."
For the life of me, I couldn't understand the blatant, yet blundering, attempts to distance Creigh Deeds from the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Virginia since 1964, especially since the minority vote is crucial in Democratic electoral wins in the state. It was a lose-lose situation. At least I now know where that advice came from.
Evidently, the recommendations in the memo were gleaned by Petts from an internal poll conducted in mid-June by the firm he is a partner with, Bennett, Petts & Normington. They were spelled out in bullet points under the heading, "Conclusions."
It looks like this whole failing campaign started with erroneous assumptions made from an immediate, post-primary poll that showed Deeds with a small primary bounce, leading McDonnell 48 to 44 among "likely" voters.
It appears that Petts actually believed that the Deeds primary victory positioned him to be able to take the Democratic base - core Democrats, northern Virginians and African-Americans - for granted and to focus his efforts on what Petts called "independents outside the DC media market."
Politico points out one sad fact, however. The DC media market Deeds was supposed to ignore contains one-third of all state voters. Add in core Democrats and minority votes and a candidate doesn't need to win a majority of the independent vote, just get a good percentage.
Deeds and his advisers must have misread his defeat of two primary opponents from northern Virginia as a strength he actually didn't have. Deeds is a native of one of the most rural parts of the state, and he has little or nothing in common with voters in northern Virginia. In contrast, his opponent could brag that he grew up in the area before moving to Hampton Roads.
How bad was the Deeds campaign in reaching out to NOVA? Well, he lost Fairfax County, which both parties assumed would be in the Democratic column this year.
Asked why Deeds' support in northern Virginia faded, Petts blamed the national debate over health care that turned off independents. I beg to differ. Deeds lost the independents there when he neither attacked McDonnell's bogus transportation plan nor put forward a plan of his own. Forming a commission to study the matter is not a plan. People in NOVA and Hampton Roads are tired of transportation woes being simply a political football.
For some reason, perhaps the comfort level of the candidate, Creigh Deeds spent the rest of the summer either off the campaign trail or touring around "Deeds Country, " rural Virginia, a move that made no sense to me or some other grassroots workers who live in "Deeds Country." I could have told Creigh Deeds early on that he would lose the 5th, 6th, and 9th congressional districts, and lose them by substantial margins.
Continuing his crappy advice, Petts said that 2009 would "not be a continuity election like 2005 was," a reference to Tim Kaine's victory as the lieutenant governor for Mark Warner. Thus, Deeds had to distance himself from both Gov. Kaine and President Obama.
How in the world could a candidate accept that advice and then follow it up with no real answers to the state's most pressing problems? His GOP opponent also understood that this was not a "continuity election." So, he buried his right-wing past and ran on "jobs, jobs, jobs" and his flawed "transportation plan."
Instead of running with the president and our current governor, Deeds was advised by Petts to position himself as a "Mark Warner Democrat," a reference to the popular former governor-turned-senator.
Deeds aired ads featuring Warner, saying he would put himself in the "Warner-Kaine" tradition of governing, but he pointedly avoided Tim Kaine. That made no sense to some local Democrats.
We all know how Deeds switched gears in October when his numbers continued to be low in every poll. The campaign finally used an ad that featured President Obama praising Deeds, and then had one joint appearance with the president in Norfolk a week before the election. Lots of minority voters who felt that they had little reason to come out for Creigh Deeds anyway were offended by the treatment of the president.
Petts final advice in the memo was, "The negatives tested on McDonnell are more damaging than those tested on Deeds."
We all remember that Deeds did get a bit of a bounce for a while from the emplasis on McDonnell's extremist past. However, I still contend that the attacks on McDonnell should have been more on policy, not social issues. We are in a difficult recession. Voters are not focusing on abortion or gay marriage or even women in the workplace in this election. The McDonnell "transportation plan," his emphasis on drilling off the coast, his attack on the originally Republican idea of "cap-and-trade, etc., was a treasure trove for a campaign that knew how to exploit policy for negative attacks.
I kept waiting for a positive plan to accompany the thesis attack. That never came. Up to the day before the election, the Deeds campaign's main reason for asking voters to vote for him was, "I'm not Bob McDonnell."
According to Politico, top national Democrats, frustrated by the race that Deeds ran, believed early on that the Democratic campaign made strategic errors from the moment it won the primary, errors that made a victory ever more difficult.