Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Washington Post Endorsement of Creigh Deeds

Because I've been busy and out of pocket most of this week, I have just gotten the chance to read and digest the Friday Washington Post's endorsement of Creigh Deeds. Although I am not a huge fan of the WaPo, having frequently criticized their reporting and even their logic, I, surprisingly, find myself agreeing with most of what they had to say. This was a well reasoned, well written, and well balanced editorial endorsement. Anybody who thinks it won't help Deeds in this area is in denial. Whether he ultimately wins enough votes in Northern Virginia to become the Democratic nominee is still open to question, but the Post's endorsement certainly doesn't hurt him.

Their main point is that those who would dismiss Deeds for his "aw shucks" modest demeanor or his rural roots are underestimating him. So are those who think he has less of a grasp of Northern Virginia's complex needs because he is not from the area. In fact, the Post argues convincingly that it's precisely because he is "from a district closer to West Virginia than to Fairfax City" that he is better positioned to defend support and funding favorable to NoVa, even to those rural voters who might object the most.

To illustrate this, the Post relays a story, told by Deeds, where a resident of Lunenberg objected to his taxes being raised to support transportation in Northern Virginia. Deeds responded by telling the man that it was Northern Virginia's tax money that paid for schools in Lunenberg and elsewhere. He explained that NoVa was the business engine of the state, and it was in trouble because of its transportation woes. Deeds helped that man, and so many others, understand that we are one state and that it is rational self interest for all of us to support the common good when it aids all of Virginia. He couldn't have made that argument as persuasively if he were just another Northern Virginia official, who would have been seen as simply supporting the self-interest of his own region.

But Deeds sees the big picture and has put in the hard work to benefit the entire state. As the Washington Post endorsement puts it:

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.

Unlike his opponents, Mr. Deeds has made clear that he would make transportation his first priority, vowing to tackle this region's greatest challenge while his political capital is at its height. His record suggests that he could make headway...
The Washington Post also looks favorably on Deeds support for non-partisan redistricting, which would make elections more competitive and hopefully produce more moderate elected officials, willing and able to compromise in Richmond.

In supporting Deeds, the Post did not tear down the other candidates, but it pointed out some of the differences and how they influenced the editorial board's decision-making process. Here's what they said about the other two Democrats running for the nomination:
Mr. McAuliffe would be an unpredictable choice, a self-described "huckster" who has vacuumed millions from donors as a Clinton confidante and former head of the Democratic National Committee. That's not meant as a dig: Mr. McAuliffe fills a room, and it's easy to imagine him jawboning businesses to move to Virginia or lawmakers to support his agenda. He has proved that he's a quick study who can rattle off facts and figures about the state. Yet, Mr. McAuliffe's promises have been as expansive as his personality, and he has offered no realistic way to foot the bill. It's also unclear whether voters will give Mr. McAuliffe a pass for showing no interest in state politics or governance until setting his sights on the governor's mansion.

Like Mr. Deeds, Mr. Moran has backed redistricting reform and closing the gun show loophole. Particularly impressive is Mr. Moran's strong record on public safety, including advocacy for victims of domestic violence and violent crime and support for decent legal representation for the accused. Mr. Moran has a solid record as a lawmaker and has earned respect from colleagues in both parties. It's hard, though, to point to an instance when he made the politically difficult choice. Mr. Moran's positions seem to have evolved for the primary campaign: He's moved left of Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Deeds in opposing both offshore drilling and a coal plant in Surry County.
Of course, it is hard to find an instant where Moran had to make a politically difficult choice simply because he represented one of the most progressive and Democratic districts in Virginia. But in opposing offshore drilling and, especially, the coal plant in Surry, Moran made an extremely politically difficult and courageous decision, one which cost him valuable union support.

To read only the progressive Virginia blogosphere, you wouldn't know it. Indeed, you could get the impression that to be so strongly pro-environmental was the smart thing to do, indeed, even that it was pandering to the most valuable members of the progressive community.

Not so. Moran has staked his campaign as a fighting, pro-worker populist as well as an environmentalist and, in doing so, he has bucked one important segment of that community, the building trades and mineworkers unions. To say they have been less than thrilled about Moran's stand on Surry would be an understatement. In fact, it has probably cost Moran donations and support. Unfortunately, the WaPo doesn't really talk much to Virginia labor so it has to be forgiven for overlooking this small fact, which demonstrates Moran's political courage and commitment to doing the right thing for all of Virginia.

Other than that, the Washington Post's take on Deeds is persuasive and fair. To my mind, they made an excellent case for their choice. It also further sharpened my own thinking about Terry McAuliffe.

I don't want to belabor my opposition or provide the right wing attack machine with any ammunition against somebody who may well be our nominee come November, but while Virginians are still deciding on that nominee, I would be derelict in my responsibility, as a blogger, not to give my honest opinion. And that opinion is that I personally am uncomfortable with a huckster. And not just any huckster but one who adapted the label so proudly himself. It bothers me greatly that McAuliffe doesn't even realize why that there is a problem with being a huckster. Moral compass anybody?

I am not in the camp that claims it will refuse to support McAuliffe. He has some strengths, which the Posts also points out. But if I had to choose (actually, I do and so do you) between the candidates, I am going to come down in support of authenticity. I think either Moran or Deeds has more of it than Terry does.

Of course, this is not the last word, except for right now.


DanielK said...

I really like your thoughts as to the WaPo endorsement. I tried to write one up on Blue Commonwealth but I think you completely owned me :) Reading the importance of the endorsement you are right in that it will play a factor and I can speak from experience in this short time since they announced.

As a very active Deeds supporter and volunteer I have been doing call time for Creigh and yesterday I had so many people say "Wow, your candidate had a good morning" just as I was introducing myself. I even had a few who were leaning (towards Brian or Terry) or undecided get pushed towards Creigh. I think that is because the post really did an outstanding job here telling Northern Virginians that there is a very qualified candidate, probably the most qualified even though he wouldn't appear so.

This also will help Creigh because now since he'll get this name recognition he can spend a little more of his scarce resources away from NOVA to keep up with Terry in advertising. Although I wouldn't be surprised if Terry finally goes up on the air in Northern Virginia now to counter this.

Either way, this is a definite help for Creigh and another way to keep that momentum going. I think there is plenty of time for him to close the distance between now and June 9th!

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Thank you DanielK, but I did not "completely own" you at all. In fact, I liked what you wrote quite a lot.

I also think that the WaPo endorsement will carry a great deal of weight with voters.

Since I slug (a peculiar NoVa commuting tradition, where riders and drivers meet up at designated spots and form impromptu car pools), I have had many chances over the years to do election result postmortems with many otherwise non-activists. These are citizens who read newspapers, are reasonably well-informed, and make the effort to vote in most elections. But they are not political activists. In fact, they would not describe themselves as political at all.

I've asked them what influences them to vote for candidates, especially in low-interest, low-information races, like school board and county supervisor races. Almost always, they tell me they base it on the endorsements of those they know and trust, like PTA presidents and on newspaper endorsements, with WaPo being the leading paper they cite.

So, for a lot of ordinary voters, the Post's endorsement will carry a lot of weight. Then, a lot will depend on who gets his voters out most effectively. In other words, the ground game will matter.

Frankly, McAuliffe has paid a lot of attention to that and is well organized. It won't surprise me if he has a good ground game on June 9. I hope Creigh and Brian are prepared and well organized too.

DanielK said...

I just wrote something on Blue Commonwealth about what I believe may happen prior to June 9th if Brian's poll numbers continue to drop. Just my thoughts but from getting to know a lot of Brian supporters well I think it is a possibility!