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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Searching for the Real Bob McDonnell

Interesting discussion among reporters about Bob McDonnell and his credibility problems. This is not from McDonnell's political opponents but from working press, including a reporter from the usually conservative Washington Times.

And apparently the doubts about who is the real Bob McDonnell are starting to take their toll, as this latest poll shows the race tightening. According to this non-partisan Clarus poll, McDonnell now leads Creigh Deeds by only 5 points. According to the poll, McDonnell is at 42 percent to Deeds' 37 percent. Previously, McDonnell led in the double digits, polling as high as 10 or 12 points. So, that's quite a shrinking number with another month and a half to go.

According to this report in Reuters:

McDonnell's margin, at 5 percent, is smaller than it had been in other publicly reported polls conducted between the first week of August and the first week of September, when McDonnell's average lead was 10.2 percent.

In the Clarus poll, Republicans lead in all three statewide races that will be
on the November ballot.

"The McDonnell thesis story has not -- so far -- damaged McDonnell as badly as
Democrats had hoped, but it hasn't left him unscathed, the way many Republicans had hoped," said Ron Faucheux, president of Clarus Research Group.

The story's major impact has been to solidify the Democratic base for Deeds. It has had less impact on independents -- McDonnell beats Deeds by 7 points among them."

A big factor in this election will be Election Day turnout, especially by race," said Faucheux. "If African American turnout approaches the 2008 presidential election levels, it would be a major boost to Deeds' chances."
The major reason for optimism is that the thesis story has indeed energized the Democratic base and it's managed to knock McDonnell off message and make him stumble. The now famous F-bomb heard round the world (ok, around the media) won't really damage McDonnell's chances. It's just a dumb stumble. But it shows that the candidate has been knocked off his game, if only temporarily.

The real key to winning for Democrats is not so much the abortion issue or other social issues but the doubts sown about McDonnell's character, especially his authenticity. That's what the Deeds campaign needs to keep hammering at, not the specific issues but the fact that voters don't really know what this guy stands for because he won't tell them. He won't discuss anything that he even suspects voters don't wish to hear. And that's not an attribute of leadership.

Voters may not believe that abortion, gay rights, or any other social issue is really relevant to them as compared to jobs, education, and transporation. But what is relevant to every voters is whether they can trust the candidate to deliver on his promises. And with Bob McDonnell you just don't know because what you see isn't necessarily what you will get.

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