Endorsing Mr. Deeds

WaPo's surprises with their endorsement of Creigh Deeds

Published May 22, 2009 2:54PM (EDT)

In a surprise, the WaPo endorsed state senator Creigh Deeds in the 2009 Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary:

WHO IS the best candidate for Northern Virginia? Judge by appearances and there are two obvious possibilities in the Democratic primary for governor: Brian Moran, the former Alexandria prosecutor who served a dozen years in the House of Delegates, and Terry R. McAuliffe, the Richmond outsider who has lived in McLean for roughly 17 years. Not in the running would be R. Creigh Deeds, an unassuming state senator from a district closer to West Virginia than to Fairfax City.

However, delve a bit deeper, and the answer might surprise you. In 18 years in the General Assembly, Mr. Deeds has time and again supported measures that might be unpopular with his rural constituency but that are the right thing to do, for Northern Virginia and the state as a whole. He has demonstrated an understanding of the problems that matter most, the commitment to solve them and the capacity to get things done. Mr. Deeds may not be the obvious choice in the June 9 primary, but he's the right one.

Although Deeds won the endorsement, it most likely helps McAuliffe directly and Republican attorney general Bob McDonnell indirectly. Why?

As the two NoVa candidates, both Moran and McAuliffe eat from the same electoral bowl. The better Deeds does, the worse it is for Moran in the non-NoVa parts of the state in which Moran might have had an advantage over McAuliffe in a head-to-head matchup.

Polls are all over the place in this race. In mid-April, Moran seemed to have an edge; by late April, McAuliffe moved comfortably ahead at 38 percent, with Deeds and Moran deadlocked 16 points behind; by early May, McAuliffe's lead shrunk a bit, with Moran edging clearly into second and Deeds falling back.

Who knows what effect this endorsement will have.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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