Thursday, April 30, 2009

SUSA Poll shows Creigh best positioned to beat McDonnell, but not much else

Ah, SUSA polls.

The portion of the April 28, 2009 SUSA poll showing the head-to-head match-ups between Bob McDonnell and, respectively, Creigh Deeds, Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran, was illuminating and, this is somewhat contradictory, both discouraging and encouraging at the same time.

The portion of the SUSA poll concerning the Democratic primary, however, utterly confused me, possibly because its methodology was flawed, but more likely because of my own limitations in understanding polling data. But that said, the poll also seems to have confused a lot of people much more knowledgeable about this stuff than I am, like Bob Holsworth.

With that in mind, just some thoughts on the general election match-ups in the poll – the part by limited intelligence could grasp a little.

For McDonnell, the good news for the general election is that he is leading every Democratic candidate by a margin that is, with the exception of Creigh, outside the MoE.

Looking at the data, however, several items jumped out at me as areas of potential encouragement for Democrats, despite McDonnell’s lead.

First, in NoVA (styled “Northeast” in the poll), the poll shows McDonnell beating Creigh 43-39%, and beating McAuliffe 44-42%, with 19% and 14%, respectively, undecided. The poll shows Moran beating McDonnell in this region, 46-39%, with 15% undecided.

One way to read this is to conclude that McDonnell is making inroads in NoVA and really is ahead, but that is counter intuitive. There is no reason to believe, as of today, that McDonnell will do any better in NoVA than Jerry Kilgore did, and in 2005, Tim Kaine won this area 60% to 40%. Creigh beat McDonnell in the AG race in this area by 58% to 42%.

The numbers in this area of the state are fairly consistent along those lines, so it is fair to assume that, in this geographical region at least, Democratic support is undercounted by some amount. Hypothetically, if you reapportion the votes in the poll in “Northeast” to reflect the 60-40 historical split, it essentially turns the race into a dead heat.

I’d speculate McDonnell’s performance in NoVA in this poll reflects the better name recognition of McDonnell versus each of the Democrats. I’d further speculate that this speculation is supported by the fact that Brian Moran, who is both from this region and has a much more well-known brother serving in Congress from this region, and who also outperforms both Creigh and McAuliffe in this region in the poll, also enjoys greater name recognition in this area.

While it is clear from the toplines that Creigh will present the strongest challenge to Bob McDonnell, consider how each Democrat did against McDonnell in attracting Republican votes:

Creigh: 10%
McAuliffe: 7%
Moran: 6%

As Creigh said the other night during the debate, he is the only candidate in the Democratic race to have won Republican votes in a statewide election.

Second, the party ID in this poll should give Republicans pause and Democrats cause for hope. This poll shows party ID, 37-33, Democrats’ way. Gallup, however, says the spread between Democratic and Republican party ID in Virginia is 9 points. I don’t have the absolute numbers, unfortunately, but this information nonetheless suggests that the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is larger than this sample.

Creigh’s ability to attract Republican and independent voters, the possible undercounting of democrats in this poll and the fact that Creigh effectively tied Bob McDonnell in 2005 after being outspent 2 to 1, all suggest that he is the strongest candidate democrats can nominate.

A quick word on the poll’s methodology.

According to the poll, it was based on the responses of 1,396 registered voters (out of 1,600 interviewed). This is fine in evaluating the general election match-ups. Also, this far out from the election, I see no problem polling registered, rather than likely, voters.

For the primary sample, however, SUSA states, “Of the registered voters, 409 were determined by SurveyUSA to be likely voters in the June 9 Democratic Primary,” but it doesn’t say how they made this determination. Regardless, however, it seems to me (and here I admit to a lack of knowledge about the art or science of polling) that this poll determined that 29% of registered voters are likely Democratic primary voters, and I don’t get that math.

In the 2006 primary, for example, turnout was 3.4% of registered voters. Even in the 2008 presidential primary, when nearly one million Virginians voted, it was only 25% of registered voters. I’m having a hard time envisioning this primary generating higher voter turnout that the Obama-Clinton primary of last year.

Given that, I am uncertain what to make of that part of the poll or whether there was anything useful to be gained from analyzing the internals of what is, for all intents and purposes, a questionable sample.

I am interested, however, to see what the next PPP poll brings – if on schedule, it should be here within a week. I don’t much care for the way they obtain responses, but the poll has the virtue of being consistent, even if it is consistently flawed, over a longer period of time. As a snapshot in time, it may be right or it may be wrong, but it will most certainly reveal which way, if any, the movement in this race is going.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Creigh Won That Debate By A Mile

Finally, a clear winner of a Gubernatorial debate.

It was Creigh by a mile.

First, Creigh showed the kind of mastery over Virginia issues that can only come from a lifetime of public service in Virginia.

Second, Creigh convincingly explained why he is the only Democrat who has demonstrated that he can beat Bob McDonnell. Listen carefully: “I am the only one up here who has won Republican votes, who has won the Independent votes” needed to be elected governor.

Read that again, because that is the ballgame right there.

McDonnell outspent Creigh two to one in 2005, and Creigh fought him to a tie!

Third, Creigh showed some great fight tonight. His hit on McAuliffe with the story about asking him for money for Virginia elections, and McAuliffe saying, “No,” went unanswered. and it was damning is showing that McAuliffe's interest in Virginia is newfound.

On the issue of gay marriage, Creigh not only repeated how he has grown on the issue, and come around “maybe more slowly than others” (what could be more human or more honest), but he aggressively called Brian Moran out on his own mixed voting record on the issue.

Fourth, Creigh made the case as to why he is is the most qualified to be governor. From issues like closing the gun show loophole to explaining how, as governor, he will be able to control the redistricting process to return the government to the people, Creigh showed that he is the sole candidate who has demonstrated the ability not only to fight for principles, but to reach pragmatic goals that serve the citizens of Virginia.

Brian Moran, on the other hand, showed he is a soulless politician. Between his robotic reading of the nasty political attacks against Terry McAuliffe that his staff prepared for him, to misrepresenting his own record, he was painful to watch. I believe he is a good person, and I know he has been a strong Progressive voice in Virginia, which is why seeing him run the negative, nasty campaign he is running is all the more disappointing and puzzling.

Terry McAuliffe, meanwhile, in this debate, probably because the questions were more relevant and tougher, revealed himself more than in the other debates as someone who is very charismatic and very smart, but ultimately lacking in enough practical experience in the trenches of Virginia politics over the years to really make his case – at least this cycle. Terry, stay involved, and you’re my man in 2013.

If you were undecided going into this debate, you should not be in that state now. We saw the next governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia tonight. His name is Creigh Deeds.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sabato's "Ten Keys" To The Governor's Mansion Suggests Deeds, McAuliffe Have Best Shot To Beat McDonnell

UPDATE: Jim Moran's office got in touch to say the Congressman is not under investigation and denies any wrongdoing with respect to PMA. I have changed the wording of the post below with respect to Rep. Moran to more clearly reflect the publicly-reported status of this matter.

Despite some substantive differences among the three Democratic candidates for Governor, virtually every Democrat is certain that either Creigh, Terry McAuliffe or Brian Moran would be a far superior choice to Bob McDonnell, come November.

Given this, one huge factor Democratic primary voters should have on their minds in choosing a Gubernatorial candidate is which one has the best shot of winning in November.

Such a determination now necessarily involves a great deal of speculation, but that doesn’t mean the determination should not be made. Indeed, at one time or another, each candidate or their supporters have argued why they have the best chance to beat McDonnell, each following a different model of a recent Democratic statewide victory. Moran claims he will be able to run up the total in NoVA and Hampton Roads needed to beat McDonnell (Webb). Creigh claims he will have stronger appeal to the Independents and moderate Republicans a Democrat needs to win statewide in the Commonwealth (Warner). Terry McAuliffe claims he will have the biggest bankroll, and his outsider status and message of change will bring new voters into the process (Obama).

Depending upon which candidate you support, each of these arguments also has a counter-argument of why they are flawed.

There is also the problem of an uncertain political environment. 2008 was, to say the least, an upheaval election. The sheer numbers of people who went to the polls, in Virginia and nationwide, was mind-boggling. Will this level of interest be sustained without the drama of an Obama/Clinton battle, or without the historical potential of electing the first African-American president, or without the palatable anger at the Bush administration and the overwhelming feeling that we were veering badly off-course in the United States?

To try to get a more objective set of criteria with which to evaluate the prospects of each Democratic candidate, I went back to a 2002 article by UVA Professor Larry Sabato in which he discusses the overarching factors that provided “ten keys to the Governor’s mansion” from 1969 to 2001. (Sabato, Larry, “A Democratic Revival in Virginia,” The Virginia News Letter, February, 2002).

As Sabato dismantled the nine elections he looked at, he scored each of his defined criteria as either favoring the Democrat, the Republican or as Neutral. Each criteria counted equally, and Sabato simply counted up his results. In all nine elections, whichever candidate had an advantage in the number of “ten keys” which mitigated to his benefit, he won the election. I applied the ‘Ten keys” to 2005, and it easily “predicted” a Kaine victory.

Obviously, in assigning a winner to each criteria, there is a fair amount of subjectivity and ample room for debate. That said, applying Sabato's "ten keys" leaves either Creigh or McAuliffe with a claim to having the best chance to beat McDonnell, and Moran as presenting the greatest risk of losing.

Here, then, are the “ten keys” and, based on my assessment, what they predict for how each Democrat might fare in the general election (obviously, these circumstances can change between now and election day):

1. The economy, as measured by changes in per capita income and the unemployment rate in the twelve months prior to Election Day.
Advantage to the R.

2. Campaign Organization and Technology
Neutral. Potential edge to D if Mcauliffe is nominee.

3. Candidate Personality and Appeal
Neutral. All four candidates are likable enough people.

4. Retrospective Judgment on Previous Governor
Advantage to the D.

5. Presidential Popularity as measured by public opinion poll ratings for the six months prior to election day.
Advantage to the D.

6. Scandal.
Neutral, with the following proviso: Scandal, by its nature, is unpredictable, but it bears mentioning that Brian Moran’s big brother Jim has been repeatedly mentioned in the press in connection with the PMA scandal as a recipient of PMA donations and as a political ally of Rep. James Murtha, Appropriations Committee Chairman. If that develops further, it would swing this category solidly to “Advantage to the R,” but I would note that Jim Moran's office denies he is under investigation or that he has done anything wrong.

7. Party Unity.
Neutral. While Democrats obviously have a divisive primary, there is more serious civil war in the GOP ranks. Still, if Democrats are unable to rally around the primary winner, the short-term advantage for this key will go to the R.

8. Campaign Money.
Neutral. This will be a closely watched race with national implications. Money will not be a problem for either candidate. Still, if McAuliffe is the nominee, it may turn “Advantage to the D.”

9. Prior Office Experience of Candidates (where statewide elective office is given more weight that a district or local office).
Neutral if Creigh is the Democratic nominee. Advantage to the R if Moran or McAuliffe is the nominee.

10. Special Issues and Dominant Circumstance.
Impossible to determine at this point in time.

So, the result for the nine categories we were able to evaluate is as follows (assuming Democrats come together over our nominee):

* McDonnell v. Creigh: D (+1)
* McDonnell v. McAuliffe: N (provisionally D+2 based on campaign organization and technology and potential fundraising ability)
* McDonnell v. Moran: N (provisionally R+1 based on scandal risk associated with Jim Moran)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Why the Moran campaign alienates so many

Over at Raising Moran, eileen has a post up entitled "More Women Bloggers 4 Brian Moran." In it, she proudly announces, among other things, "Howling Latina lets her no-holds-bar style loose in support of Brian Moran too! Gotta love it," linking to a post that states the following:
First, a message to the state senator from Bath County via the howler. She wants you to quit filling her inbox with campaign drivel and span; nothing you can ever say will convince her to campaign or vote for you. She's just not that into you; maybe it's all those anti-drug laws you tout on your Web site.

Besides, you are a loser. You lost your campaign for lieutenant governor and you lost your campaign for attorney general. Don't you think you should first prove you can win statewide before you ask for a promotion?? Just asking...

Is this really the rhetoric that Brian Moran's campaign wants to be touting? Creigh Deeds is a loser? It is nonsense like this that simply turns so many people off to the Moran candidacy.

And just to be clear, the problem here is not Howling Latina's opinion (although see comments, below). The question is whether, by approvingly citing this post on a semi-official campaign site, the Moran campaign is endorsing language like this.

Also, I ask, do you really "gotta love it" when someone calls a dedicated and loyal Democrat who has served the people of Virginia and fought for Progressive causes for more than 20 years a "loser"? Exactly who is persuaded by this dreck?

No, I don't love it.

Howling Latina's comments, besides being nasty to no apparent purpose, simply have no factual basis. Anyone with a passing familiarity with Virginia history would know that Creigh's "loss" to McDonnell in 2005 by 300 votes out of 1.7 million cast is hardly the performance of a "loser." In fact, it was the best performance by a Democrat running for Attorney General since Mary Sue Terry in 1989.

As for that election that Creigh lost for Lt. Governor, well, I'm relatively new to Virginia politics, so I readily admit that perhaps Creigh ran for this office at some point in the past and I'm unaware of it.

But my favorite part of the post is this gem:
Don't you [Creigh] think you should first prove you can win statewide before you ask for a promotion?? Just asking...

Uh, okay. Well, what's good for the goose... So, I'm "just asking" the same question of Brian Moran.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Creigh's Opening Statement to VEA Forum

The following is some excerpts from Creigh's opening statement tonight to the VEA Gubernatorial Candidate Forum in Hampton, VA. I don't typically just provide comments like this sent by the campaign, but I thought these were pretty good because they get to the core of who I think Creigh is and why he is the right person to be our next Governor:
Of all the candidates to come before you today, no one is better prepared to be Virginia’s next education Governor than me.  My entire life has been about service—to the Commonwealth I cherish and to the family that I love. I’m running for Governor to continue serving by creating opportunity and prosperity and hope in every corner of Virginia.

I grew up the product of Virginia’s public schools and the grandson of two Virginia schoolteachers. My maternal grandmother spent more than 40 years in the classroom, retiring in 1964 from Rockbridge County schools having never earned a college degree.

It’s going to take a Governor who wakes up every day with an understanding of the challenges our teachers face in the classroom, and it’s going to take a Governor with a vision for keeping our children on the path to success to continue the progress we’ve made under Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. And it will take a leader who knows what it means to stay and fight for education.

No political campaign is more important than protecting education.  It’s why I refused to walk away from Tim Kaine and my colleagues in the Senate this year. It’s why I stood with the teachers and professionals in this room and demanded no permanent cuts to education.

“We need to build on what Mark Warner and Tim Kaine started by finally investing in universal pre-k education for every Virginia child.  We need to increase teacher pay to at least the national average because we can’t expect excellence, if we aren’t even willing to pay for average.  And we can’t expect to solve the challenges of tomorrow if we continue to fall behind the rest of the world in math and science.  That’s why we need to incentivize teachers to go into math and science education and we need those teachers to go into the toughest school districts.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Throw Terry McAuliffe Down The Well!

I had hoped to stay away from this story, but a much better blogger than I, Ben Tribbet at NLS, called out the blog, Too Conservative, which according to Ben works for Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, for what he claims is an anti-Semitic rant.

Good for him for doing so.

The essence of Ben’s case is the fact that Too Conservative castigated Terry McAuliffe for taking money from Haim Saban on the basis of no other evidence whatsoever than the fact that Saban is Jewish, which is basically what they did.

Not just that, but the people at Too Conservative assert:
Terry McAuliffe … should immediately denounce Saban and return all of his contributions, and maybe not plan so many fundraisers in Hollywood

What, then, is Saban’s crime that makes him so toxic?

Actually, none that has been proved. Congresswoman Jane Harmon was apparently picked up on a wiretap of an “Israeli Agent“ some time ago allegedly making a deal that she would intervene on behalf of two accused Israeli “spies” (that’s a whole other story, by the way, but I’ll leave it at that for now) if another, unidentified person, would lobby Nancy Pelosi to make Harmon chairperson of the House Intelligence Committee.

First, it is unclear that any action was actually taken as a result.

Second, it is unclear that even if some action was taken, it was illegal.

Third, the reason this is coming to light now is because the CIA is pushing back against the Obama Administration for actually saying that torture is wrong. So, it is entirely possible that the real crime is the CIA compromising an intelligence asset for political purposes.

But we can leave all that behind and move on, because our focus is the Old Dominion.

For a variety of reasons, a couple of national bloggers jumped to the conclusion (since corrected) that this supposed “Israeli Agent” who was the subject of the wiretap is Haim Saban, a media billionaire who is a long-time contributor to Democratic causes and candidates and, appropos of absolutely nothing, also happens to be among the most generous of philanthropic families in the United States.

And one of the candidates he has been generous to has been Terry McAuliffe, to the tune of some $250K.

From there, Too Conservative infers all sorts of nefarious connections from Terry McAuliffe to, as Too Conservative describes it, “a pro-AIPAC lobbyist who attempted to use his extreme wealth to elevate a Congressman to a position where she could reduce charges of espionage against the United States of America.”

And from there it is a short trip to, “No wonder Terry McAuliffe is the most disliked of any candidate for Governor.” No wonder, indeed. He associates with Jews! He takes our money!

Actually, I don’t know the folks who run the website Too Conservative, and so I’m not in any position to look into their souls and call them anti-Semites.

But some of the language in their post, specifically, the allusion to “Hollywood,” the pejorative characterization of Saban as “pro-AIPAC,” the reference to the previously identified Jewish man’s ”exrteme wealth,” and, frankly, just the glee and rhetorical ease with which Too Conservative makes this argument, ought to at least give them pause. Intentionally or not, this post traffics in anti-Semitic imagery and seems just a little too smug to me.

Meanwhile, too my new friends at Too Conservative, I offer up this as a peace offering. Enjoy, fellas, and feel free to sing along at your computer monitor. No one will ever know.

Analysis: Why Moran's "Fighter" Theme Lacks Punch

I’m not in the predicton game, so I don’t know whether Brian Moran will win the Democratic primary in June, but if he does prevail it will be in spite of, not because of, the campaign he has run.

Consider the central theme of Brian Moran’s campaign – “We Need a Fighter” -- and how this rhetoric actually works against the campaign he has run. There have been at least three basic problems with the way in which the Moran campaign and its supporters have framed and pursued this strategy.

The first problem is that, despite his tough words, it is not exactly clear from his record how much of a fighter Brian Moran actually is. It is true he argued with Republicans for many years in the House of Delegates, and it is true that he has staked out consistently liberal positions in a state and in a legislature in which liberals were not always the most popular of characters. We can agree that he was a fighter in the sense that he was a persistent advocate for his positions.

Of course, “We need a debater” isn’t much of a rallying cry, either.

When I think of a fighter, I think of someone with skin in the game. Virginia may have been conservative, but Brian Moran’s district was always reliably liberal. As I said, he has been a passionate advocate – fair enough -- but I’m a bit unclear on where the risk in that advocacy lay for him.

That risk is a necessary element of the “fighter” argument the Moran camp is making, because it is implicit in the argument that Brian Moran possesses political courage and fortitude so worthy of admiration that it is enough to elevate him to the highest office in the Commonwealth. If there a true record of political courage in Brian Moran’s background – one in which he really put something personal at risk, where he profoundly disagreed with the majority of his constituents, or a vote that might have risked his seat, or where he had to go back to Alexandria and challenge his district to follow his lead, his campaign has not put that record forth.

Which leads to the second problem, namely, that in the conduct of his campaign, neither Brian Moran nor his supporters have demonstrated they are fighters. They have been whiners, complaining about the unfairness of every criticism. They have been bullies, letting loose attack dogs to hurl untrue accusations against bloggers who endorsed an opponent, leaking private e-mails or knowingly putting people’s livelihoods in danger. And they have pitched fits -- I have been called nuts, crazy, insane or some variation thereof several times by a prominent blogosphere supporter of Brian Moran’s.

At the same time, questions have been raised – legitimate question, in my view, about Brian Moran’s record on choice, about campaign contributions from businesses who may be currying favor with his brother, about the inconsistency between Brian Moran’s position on the Surry and the Wise coal plants, about the conduct of his campaign and his operatives and about the behavior of volunteers attached to the campaign. Not a single question has been forthrightly answered.

The evening of the dueling blogger dinners, for example, Creigh Deeds subjected himself to several hours of on-the-record questioning by one blogger, Lowell Feld, who supported an opponent, and by another blogger, Ben Tribbet, is equally tough on everybody. Brian Moran, meanwhile, had a dinner to which, for the most part, only bloggers who supported him were permitted to attend. And even with that, much of it was off the record.

The third problem is that the construction of the argument itself suggests that Brian Moran will be a Governor who fights, but doesn’t deliver. In government, it is a role in which Brian Moran likely feels comfortable, not for lack of effort or desire, but because he has spent his entire legislative life in the minority party.

Conditioned as he is by life in the House of Delegates, I fear that Brian Moran thinks fighting is the goal. It isn’t. Above all else, citizens want their chief executive to get things done, not merely fight. Governing effectively is the goal.

Sure, I want a Governor who will fight and hang tough, but I also want a Governor who is comfortable enough and skillful enough at the art of governing to be able to sit at a table with his political opponents when it is called for and cut a deal from a position of strength. And, when the situation calls for it, walk away from that table, as well.

In this regard, Brian Moran has been one-dimensional. He has asserted that he will be a fighter – one can accept that or not – but he has not even attempted to explain how he will be a Governor, or why he is the right person for that part of the job.

I may not agree with the views of 49 percent of my fellow citizens in the Commonwealth, but once this election is over, they will still be my fellow citizens, and the fact is that my welfare is wrapped up in theirs.

Taken together, I wonder whether this dissonance between rhetoric and record, between assertion and action, is the reason why, between Feb. 3 and March 30, Brian Moran’s favorable rating has stayed at 34, while his unfavorable has risen from 11 to 15.

As Chico Marx once said, “Who are you going to believe, me or your eyes?”

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Handul of Pics from W&M Debate

I am still struggling to get pictures on my new Pentax to look good, but out of 200 pictures I snapped at the W&M debate, only three came out both interesting and in focus.

Brian Moran, Terry McAuliffe and Creigh Deeds wait to be introduced by Andrea Mitchell

McAuliffe senior campaign strategist Mo Elleithee and Creigh's campaign manager, Joe Abbey, before the debate

Andrea Mitchell as she stepped down from the stage after the debate

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Who Knows, Maybe 80% of Defense Contractors Just Oppose the Surry Plant?

All three candidates have faced criticism over fundraising in this primary campaign.

Criticism over Terry McAuliffe’s fundraising from his Wall Street and Hollywood pals, and Brian Moran’s singular appeal to defense and homeland security contractors, led to several questions and barbs at today’s debate.

At one point, naturally enough, Andrea Mitchell asked whether Virginia needs campaign finance limits like the Federal government. It’s a Beltway thing.

Not that anyone should care what I think one way or another about this, but, FWIW, I think the system we have in Virginia is pretty good.

First, I strongly oppose campaign contribution limits in general. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the corrupting nature of money in politics in general, because I do. But I believe that the ability to donate money to a political campaign is a matter of free speech and personal choice that government ought to stay out of. As much as it pains me to agree with George Will about anything, McCain-Feingold is a law with the best of intentions, and the worst of solutions.

Do some people donate to candidates for shady reasons? Sure they do, but the sunshine of disclosure is the best cure for that particular problem. Indeed, the current debate we are having in this primary is a perfect example.

Maybe you think that Brian Moran is getting all those defense industry donations because of his powerful brother, Jim Moran, and his position on, and close relationship with John Murtha, the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Maybe you agree with Terry McAuliffe that the U.S. Attorney ought to look into it.

Or perhaps you are convinced Brian Moran is receiving the preponderance of donations from this industry because, for some strange reason, the defense and homeland security industries, more than any other, oppose the construction of the Surry coal fired plant. (Hey, could be!)

Actually, I’m not really bothered by, but I am a little suspicious of, the reason behind the defense and homeland security largess that is bestowed upon Brian Moran. I don’t think for a moment that there is any quid-pro-quo involved with it or that Brian Moran is party to any chicanery, but I am undecided on the question of whether he the knowing, unwitting beneficiary of some chicanery.

As for Terry McAuliffe, I’m similarly not bothered by his huge out of state donations. “I have friends,” McAuliffe says. I say, G-d bless him, I should have some friends like that.

The point is that the Virginia system both allows and compels us to ask these questions. And to come up with our own answers. Furthermore, these are debates worth having – they go directly to the quality, integrity and ability of our political leadership.

But the guy whose fund raising issues have most perturbed me throughout this primary is Creigh Deeds. While he had a great first quarter, raising money in small donations from people all around Virginia, he’s still not doing enough of it. So, if you’re among the 2 or 3 people to have read this far in the post, drop the guy a few sheckels, will ya?

I’ve got an ActBlue Page


Go to Creigh’s Website

Brian Moran Channels Otter

At one point during today's big debate at William & Mary, Andrea Mitchell asked Brian Moran about all those contributions he's been receiving from defense contractors, and whether something would be expected from him (or his brother) in return.

Moran clumsily, but effectively, ducked the question. He launched into a statement about how those defense contractors made things like bullet-proof vests that saved lives, which indeed they do. Moran even got a little self-righteous about it.

The problem with his response, of course, is that he was indignant about an allegation that had never been made. No one questioned the legitimacy of the work these contractors do; rather, the question was whether Brian's Moran's powerful brother in Congress had anything to do with the fact that an inexplicably high percentage of their contributions in the race so far have gone to him.

I say it was effective because it was enough to satisfy Mitchell, who went on to something else, even if the gods of logic and common sense looked down with puzzled looks upon their faces.

On the drive home, I was trying to think of what Moran's response reminded me of. It wasn't until I almost reached Charlottesville that it hit me ...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Yet another reason it looks bleak for Brian Moran

NLS has a very interesting look at the state of the Gubernatorial race. I just don't know enough to comment on a lot of it, and some of it is just speculation that no one can evaluate. The bottom line -- that Terry McAuliffe, the guy with the most money by far, is clearly the best positioned, is fairly conventional and hard to argue with.

But the following point caught my attention:
Creigh's only real chance to win is with low NoVA turnout, and Brian's only road the nomination is with high NoVA turnout and winning a huge share of that vote.

Ben doesn't define low NoVA turnout, but elsewhere he states, with respect to high NoVA turnout:
Brian needs Northern Virginia to be over 40% of the vote in this primary[.]

So, will NoVA be 40% of the vote?

In part, it depends how one defines NoVA, obviously, I thought for voting purposes, the following jurisdictions were fair to include in NoVA:

Arlington Co.
Fairfax Co.
Loudoun Co.
Stafford Co.
Prince William Co.
Alexandria City
Falls Church City
Fairfax City
Manassas City
Manassas Park City

I then looked at Democratic voter participation in these five jurisdictions as a percentage of total statewide Democratic voters in the following five elections:

2008 General (Democratic voters for President only)
2008 Presidential Primary
2006 Senatorial Primary
2005 General (Democratic voters for Governor only)
2005 LG Primary

In only one of those elections did the percentage of Democratic voters in NoVA, as I defined it, exceed 40% of the total Democratic voters -- the threshold Ben says Moran needs. And in the other four elections, the percentages were significantly below 40% -- 33.6%; 31%; 31%; 33.6%. I'm not going to tell you which one was over 40%, but if you think about it, it can be divined.

Perhaps Ben is defining NoVA differently than me, including a few of the exurban counties to the South in calculating his 40% threshold for Moran. If so, then fine. I suppose I could have asked him, but that would be too easy and less fun.

But I think I'm using a pretty reasonable definition of NoVA. If Ben is right that Brian Moran needs this vote to constitute 40% of the total before he even gets to the percentage Ben said he needs to win to prevail in the election (which at this point seems utterly impossible for him to reach), I don't see where Moran stands a chance in this election. I would argue that NoVA, as I defined it, is more likely to be toward the low to mid 30s as a percentage of the total primary vote, given the ubiquitous presence of three candidates -- Creigh, Jody Wagner and Jon Bowerbank -- from other areas of the Commonwealth.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Brad Rees: Smart Enough To Be Dumb

DemBones has a new post up about Brad Rees. As I have written before, DemBones is one of the most intelligent and thoughtful blogs there is if you care about discussing things like politics, theology and the general human condition. I lurk a lot there, too insecure to post.

(Before I forget, you can access Brad's Blog here.)

In any event, the proprieter of DemBones, Drew, is a strong supporter of Tom Perriello, the newly elected Democratic Congressman from the Fifith District. His latest post about Brad, the Objectivist/Libertarian/Conservative to whom I introduced you here, addresses a not-so-subtle swipe Brad took at Perriello in a speech yesterday. Via Drew, here is what Brad said:
And every single politician that stands before you and proclaims it your moral duty to “contribute” to some “common good” is engaged in hyperbole to promote the same end: discrimination against you, that smallest of all minorities, the individual taxpayer. Forcible confiscation of the fruits of your labor is not “contributing.” And to foist upon you that line about the “common good” is the height of arrogance.

The reason why Drew got out of sorts is because the idea of acting for the common good was a campaign theme of Perriello's. so Drew goes on to explain the entiure concept of a "common good," even citing the U.S. Constitiution, a document Brad reveres.

But, of course, the obvious problem with Brad's argument here is that it lacks any kind of coherence or historical, factual or rhetorical support. I suspect Brad, an intelligent fellow, realizes his argument doesn't make any actual sense.

Rather, It appears Brad was trying to touch an emotional chord with the crowd, and in this, it seems, he was successful. Watching the video that Drew posted. I particularly liked the way Brad spoke through a megaphone into a microphone in order to be heard by a crown that seemed to measure in the dozens. Brilliant!

In a situation like this, actually trying to make sense in what you are saying hurts you rhetorically, because if people are actually thinking about and intellectually processing what you are saying, then they are not reacting emotionally to it. Thus, applying the kind of analysis to Brad's remark that Drew does is not so much pointless as it is beside the point.

Consider another section from the video. When Brad mentions that he had been told that Thomas Jefferson was a "Democrat," and the guy either working or standing nearby the videocamera can be heard correcting him in a know-it-all sort of way: "Actually, he was a Whig."

Well, actually, to the extent Jefferson even belonged to a political party in the way that we would understand the term, it was called the Democratic-Republican party.

Brad was more right than wrong on that one, but it actually lowered his credibility with his audience, who thought Jefferson was a Whig.

I'm guessing Brad knows this occurs all the time among his fans, which is why when he speaks or writes, he is quite unconcerned with the content of what he is saying.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Shad Planking Report: Creigh Wins The Sign War! *

* At least on the bumper of my car, which was in the parking lot.

At the Shad Planking, however, I'd have to give it to Terry McAuliffe (please see photos on every other blog).

Anyway, here are a few quick observations from my first Shad:

1. I was prepared for a lot of signs, but the number of McAuliffe signs was amazing. I hope it helps him, because a McAuliffe staffer, after several beers, handed me the following updated Income Statement for the campaign:
Money raised $4,500,000
Cash on Hand as of 3/31 $2,300,000

74 Gazillion Signs $8,547,963
Airplane w/sign $ 3,000

CURRENT DEFICIT: ($6,250,963)

2. Several people mentioned to me that Creigh made a "mistake" by not attending. They were caught in the heat of the moment, and I could not disagree more. There was not a single undecided voter anywhere near the Shad Planking (unless, of course, teacherken attended), unlike the many voters Creigh met with today in southwest Virginia.

3. I felt a little sad for Brian Moran. His campaign seems to be losing steam and desire. It was one thing for Creigh not to have a presence at the Shad -- after all, he wasn't there. But, honestly, Brian Moran didn't seem to have one either, and he was there. He didn't bother with the sign war, and his supporters seemed neither out in force nor pumped up for their man, IMHO.

4. I saw George Allen, and boy, was I glad, The former Senator and I are about as far apart as two people could be on the political and ideological spectrum, but just knowing there was another person there who could not eat the chametz they were serving made me fell not so alone on this penultimate day of Passover.

5. For a guy whose ideology, particularly when it comes to social issues, is just slightly to the right of Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak, Bob McDonnell is pretty darn personable. This has me very concerned.

6. On the other hand, wherever McDonnell went at the Shad, he was followed by a legion of supporters holding signs bearing his name on sticks about eight feet in the air, and ready to shout down any random Democrat who might challenge their guy. Around this cordon was a gaggle of preppie looking guys all smoking large cigars, so that their cheap odor followed this strange procession wherever it wen, proving that McDonnell's campaign really does stink.

7. Here is a shot of Jim Gilmore waiting to use a port-0-john. Still a putz.

8. Had a brief chat with Terry McAuliffe. I'll say this for him: when he is talking to you, he is talking to you. I really felt like he was engaged in a one-on-one conversation with me. Among other things, I asked him about closing the gun show loophole, and his response was along the lines of "We have enough laws. We need to enforce them better," but he listened to my question, and gave a thoughtful answer, albeit one I don't agree with. Beyond that, I watched him deal with a WP reporter and with a guy in the crowd who insited on interrupting his time with the reporter, and he handled both very smoothly.

9. Chatted briefly with Steve Shannon. I know we are all caught up in the Gubernatorial primary, but we have a great candidate running for Attorney General, and Democrats seem poised to take this office for the first time in 20 years.

10. Picture of Terry McAuliffe giving his speech:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bob McDonnell - Beyond Comprehension

While I understand that the issue of gun control is more complex for many people than simply declaring guns to be bad and limiting their sale and possession, I simply do not understand how any rational, thinking person exercising a minimal amount of judgment could fail to have the common sense to pass laws that would help prevent another Virginia Tech, or keep guns out of the hands of criminals, while at the same time imposing only a relatively minor recordkeeping hassle on legitimate collectors.

Oh, that explains it. This concerns Bob McDonnell, Republican candidate for governor:

Creigh got a comrpomise on closing this loophole out of committee this year, but that was as far as it got. Still, it was a step forward, although that is cold comfort to the potential victims of the politicians like Bob McDonnell who, against all reason and decency, block common sense laws to protect us because they are prisoners of an extremist ideology.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Huge News: Creigh has $1.2 Million cash on hand

Looks like Brian Moran was correct: It's a two-man race after all!

Seriously, this is great news!. Just got the following letter in my inbox:
Alan --

I wanted you to be the first to know that we proved the pundits wrong.
I am excited to announce that I was able to raise more money in 44 days than the previous 6 months -- and now my campaign has $1.2 million cash-on-hand.

Some people said that it was foolish of me to give up 46 days of campaign fundraising in order to stay and fight for you in the Virginia Senate.  They said that I had no shot of keeping up with my opponents.

But as we've said all along, we are on track to have the resources we need to let every Democratic primary voter know I'm the one candidate who's best prepared to continue the legacy of Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

My opponents had twice as much time to fundraise.  Brian Moran even resigned his seat so he could raise money full-time for his campaign, but it didn't pay off.  I now have 41 percent more cash on-hand than Brian.

I'm also so proud that because of our growing support statewide, 97 percent of our contributions came from Virginians like you.
But to take on Terry McAuliffe and win the nomination on June 9th, we need to keep building on our success. Contribute today.

It means so much to me to have your support.

Thank you,

Creigh Deeds

This is huge news. Obviously, Creigh is behind McAuliffe, but the fact that he is ahead of Moran with respect to cash on hand as of today crates an entirely new dynamic on this race.

Could it be time for Brian Moran to drop out and throw his support to Creigh?

Creigh's unifying vision

An excellent article from The Flat Hat, the student newspaper of the College of William & Mary, covers the William & Mary Young Democrats 12th Annual Fundraising Banquet from the other night, where Creigh Deeds was the keynote speaker.

Karyn Moran and Dorothy McAuliffe also attended, representing their respective spouses.

Blogs and bloggers tend to focus on the tactics and atmospherics of these races, as opposed to the substance. There’s good reason for this: the substantive issues are generally boring, since in the context of a primary we generally agree with all the candidates more than 90 percent of the time, and where there are differences among them they tend, for most people, to be on the margins. Oh, I understand that for activists, Brian Moran’s position on the Surry coal fired plant is the end-all and be-all, and in the nitty-gritty world of policy, they may be right, but I don’t think it is going to be the deal-maker or deal-breaker come June.

But political tactics, gossip, speculation, money and gossip, now that is interesting stuff, not to mention the endless hours of vicarious thrills. Did I mention gossip?

It took a well-written article in W&M's college rag to get me focused back on why we are all going through this election, and to remind me why Creigh -- notwithstanding his current position in the polls, and notwithstanding his first quarter fundraising which is almost certain to trail his opponents, if only because he has had one-third of the time in which to fundraise – is the candidate to watch in this race, and the candidate who, despite it all, has momentum heading into this critical five-week period.

Moran and McAuliffe have plenty of plans and position papers on all kinds of issues. Creigh will eventually have them, too, I’m sure. But if Moran and McAuliffe have both conspicuously lacked something throughout this campaign, it is a convincing vision that ties the entire Commonwealth together, and therefore, a corresponding rationale for why they both want to be governor or ought to be governor.

Brian Moran, I'm sure, can talk intelligently about the need to build more roads to people in Fairfax, or about clean coal to folks in Southwest. The question is, can he talk about Northern Virginia’s transportation issues in Southwest Virginia, and about coal to folks in Fairfax, the same exact way? Does he have a unifying vision? And if he can do so, does he choose to do so?

If he has, I haven’t heard it yet. I harp on this issue, but I have yet to hear a convincing explanation from Brian Moran of why he wants to be Governor. What I’ve heard his say is that he wants to be Governor because we must win the next election. It’s a non sequitor.

Terry McAuliffe want to bring change, but he has utterly failed to explain why his change is helpful, other than representing something different simply for the sake of doing something different.

But back to the Creigh and this wonderful article about his speech at William & Mary. What struck me about this article is the way the issues on which Creigh has been concentrating into a pragmatic, coherent, unifying, progressive and powerful vision for the Commonwealth for the next four years and behind.

It is pragmatic because it is achievable, even with the GOP in control of the HoD; it is coherent because the main elements tie into and lend support to one another; it is unifying because it seeks to break down the regional divisions in the state that – ahem – another candidate (I’m looking at you, Bob McDonnell) would exploit; it is progressive because its ultimate goals are economic growth and justice, a cleaner environment and a more educated citizenry, which in turn serve as a foundation for a free and pluralistic society in which equality and fairness for all citizens can thrive; and it is powerful because it is a vision of hope and advancement, not one based in fear and division.

Please read the article – I don’t do Creigh’s plans or his plain-speaking descriptions justice with my lame prose – but here is how it seems to be shaping up:

1. Transportation is the most important issue the next Governor needs to address.
While tough economic times grab the headlines, the fundamental and difficult problems that we have faced for the last 10 years have not gone away, and transportation has been the thorniest of them all. Yes, people affected by the Bush Recession need help and care, but transportation is a threshold issue that can help solve many other issues going forward because it is an essential element of economic growth. Fix transportation, and lots of other problems down the road become much easier to address.

Creigh’s main point about transportation is that we need to deal with it as a statewide issue, not a regional one. Southwest and Southside need to understand that NoVA and Hampton Roads require more roads and more mass transit if they are going to continue to grow and develop if they are going to continue to be engines of economic growth for all of us. Our urban areas need to understand the critical need for broadband, roadways and other infrastructure development in the rural areas of the Commonwealth to drive development in those areas, so they can contribute more to Virginia’s well-being and growth in the future.

2. Energy conservation and alternative fuel innovation.
“There are lots of things we can do to conserve energy, and I think we can reduce our consumption by somewhere between 15 and 25 percent if we put our minds to it,” Creigh told the students, adding, “We’re not going to conserve our economy the whole way forward. We’re going to have to develop the next generations of alternative and renewable energy.”

Creigh has spoken often of his plan, modeled on North Carolina’s research triangle, with respect to developing new energy technologies. “Now I’m not suggesting that we need a physical research park. I am suggesting that we need a plan. We need to plant that seed right now to secure our economic future.” Creigh points to the world-class research universities already in the state’s system, including, but not only JMU, UVA and Tech, as forming the core of this research.

3. Education and building up the community college system.
“If we use the community college system as our tool to build the smartest work force in the world — because a community college is within an hour’s drive of every single Virginian — we build smart workers everywhere.”

With all this in mind, if you feel so inclined you can donate to Creigh’s campaign through an Act Blue page I have set up, which you can reach through THIS LINK, or of course through Creigh’s website –

We now return to you to your regularly scheduled blog reading about tactics, gossip, speculation, money and gossip.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

At the Dawn of Creation

I went this morning with one of my sons, Elijah, to a beautiful meadow on Carter’s Mountain just outside Charlottesville for Birkat Hachama, the blessing of the sun.

Talmudic tradition holds that every 28 years, the sun returns to the position it held on the day G-d created it. The NYT explains the math here:
God created the sun, the moon and the stars on Wednesday, the fourth day. A solar year is about 365 1/4 days, or about 52 weeks and 1 1/4 days. So each year since creation, the sun rises 1 1/4 days, or 30 hours, later. It takes 28 years for the sun to again hit the same position in the firmament at the same moment on the same day of the week.

The Times points out, however, that scientifically the calculation is not quite that simple, that a year is several minutes longer than the 365 and ¼ days cited above, and over thousands of years these few minutes add up.

But, what does it matter. The rabbis that figured this out are a hundred times smarter than me and the Times reporter put together, so I’m confident they got it right and the sun is exactly where it is supposed to be.

But, really, the point is that it is a good thing, every 28 years or so, to take a few moments and ponder not only why we are here, or how we got here, or the hundreds of millions of other variables and unknowns that cling to our existence, or the tens of thousands of seemingly intractable issues and conflicts our presence on this planet produce, but also the indisputable fact that we are here, and how awesome and miraculous our mere and meager existence is, whether you think that is the result of an Act of G-d, an act of science, or both.

JFK put it better than I ever could:
For in the final analysis, our most basic common link, is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's futures, and we are all mortal.

Some pics of the Birkat Hachama follow:

Some views from Carter's Mountain

Rabbi Dan Alexander, Congregation Beth Israel, Charlottesville, VA

The Congregation

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Shunning Shad, Valuing Voters

By shunning the Shad Planking this year in favor of a campaign swing through Southwest Virginia with Congressman Rick Boucher, Creigh Deeds is signaling that his campaign will try something the 2009 Democratic Primary hasn't seen enough of yet: reaching out to actual voters.

Politically, the Shad Planking is a show of inside political muscle, resources and organizational strength. As Jim Nolan wrote today in the RTD, perhaps Creigh learned a lesson from the JJ. "Well-heeled Democrat Terry McAuliffe upstaged his rivals by turning the event into a free-spending spectacle," he wrote, "hiring a marching band to drumroll his arrival, filling 39 tables with supporters, putting up 1,000 signs, and handing out 2,500 fortune cookies to attendees."

Indeed, the huge "TERRY" sign that stretched across the entrance to the JJ haunted my dreams for weeks.

For his part, Brian Moran is the insider's insider, what with all those endorsements "he carries around in his pocket like so many nickles and dimes."

Why even try to compete with that? What is there for Creigh to gain at the Shad Planking?

So far, Creigh has made all the right decisions in this campaign. When Brian Moran abandoned his seat in the House of Delegates to concentrate on his run for Governor, Creigh faced a decision whether to resign his own seat. He decided not to do so, believing he owed it to his constituents to stay and play a roll through this extremely tough General Assembly session. Did he lose fundraising and campaigning time? You bet. Are the people of Virginia better off that he stayed and fought? Yeah, we are.

On June 10, when Virginia's political analysts look back and wonder how Creigh won the nomination, I suspect that this might be seen as one of the key decisions. Some in Virginia's blogosphere and some among Virginia's political class have speculated that Creigh skipping the Shad Planking is a sign of trouble in his campaign, even speculating he must be dropping out.

They could not be more wrong. Rather, it is a sign of Creigh's strength and his belief in what he is doing.

At the end of the day, you get elected with votes, not with endorsements or copious amounts of signs screaming your name. I can't think of a better way to let the citizens of Virginia know that their votes will really count, and will really be appreciated, and are really valued, than by showing them how hard you are willing to work hard to earn them every single day between now and the election.

Republicans explain why Creigh scares them the most, Moran the least

Blue Virginia has a post up knocking down the idiotic idea that Creigh may be dropping out of the race. Lowell traced the story back to a story at Bearing Drift that read as follows:

Last night at their Richmond office kick off, Jody Wagner staffers told Bearing Drift that Creigh Deeds was withdrawing from the Democratic race for Governor. Coming from the front runner for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor that’s a big blow for Deeds who is currently polling third in the race behind Brian Moran and Terry McAulliffe.

There is no truth to it whatsoever. Why on Earth would Creigh drop out right before five debates that will arguably decide the race? Obviously, there is no reason. The real mystery here is why "staffers" (note, not just one person without a clue) for Jody Wagner would seek to spread such an obviously false story.

But as I followed Lowell's links to read the source material for myself, what really caught my attention were the comments to the Brearing Drift post from Republican readers. Recently, I saw an article somewhere that reported on the fears of Republican operatives of a McAuliffe candidacy in the Fall. Being professionals, their reason was his fundraising prowess. Not a single operative said he or she feared Brian Moran. Several feared Creigh because of his ability to appeal to independents, moderates and disaffected Republicans.

The comments to this story at Bearing Drift seem to bear that out.

Here are the comments on point:

This [Deeds dropping out] would be great for us [Republicans], as Deeds is the only Democrat that could pull significant Republican voters away from McDonnell. Moran and McAuliffe are both way too far to the left.

* * * * * * *
In a perfect GOP world Creigh, Brian and Terry would fight tooth and nails for the nomination. In the process slinging mud at each other. They would all make it to the primary. Brian would win. Their respective supporters would stay divided and Bob would become the 71st Gov of the Commonwealth.

* * * * * * *
Look... I REALLY dislike Bob McDonnell. I sure don’t want to vote for him.
However, Brian Moran is a far lefty. He is also a big time enviornmentalist. I know that plays well with you and Eileen but, to me that is too much to ignore and vote for the guy. Understandably, he’s a favorite in the left of center crowd and Sierra Club democrats.
Terry McAwful has the money. That’s his advantage. His DNC partisanship coupled with his “carpet bagger” status however, will be enough to energize Republicans that are soft on McDonnell. They’ll hold their noses and vote for Bob “one gun a month” McDonnell. Some but, not all.


You guys can try to paint Moran as conservative all you want. It will be just too damn easy to destroy that facade with Moran’s record and the enviornmentalist agenda he has. What you like about Moran, really is a turn off to us. I couldn’t vote for him.
You have disaffected people that really are upset with McDonnell. I would suggest you’d listen but, the Moran colored glasses you’re wearing won’t let you see that. Or will you be objective and see it for what it really is?

Joel McDonald, of VBDems, who recently published a call for Creigh to leave the race and throw his support to Brian Moran across the Progressive Blogoshere, posted several comments arguing that the recent PPP poll showed Brian Moran had the most GOP support, but (at the risk of mixing metaphors), in the lion's den that sort of argument could not gain any traction whatsoever.

From their own mouths, on their own blog, the Commonwealth's Republicans tell us to give them a candidate for which they, too, can vote. As split as we are, Republicans are moreso. Are we going to throw this opportunity away?

Creigh is the clear path to a victory in November. He is the logical heir to Mark Warner and Tim Kaine in helping establish Democratic dominance in the Old Dominion, and adding to the foundation begun by our previous two governors, brick by brick, for enduring Progressive policies and a generation-long Prgressive majority to advance the Commonwealth.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Latest Moran Snafu again raises doubts about campaign's direction

Crossposted to Daily Kos

With his latest Snafu, Brian Moran has shown, again, that based on the campaign he has run so far, he is arguably not ready to be the Democratic nominee for Governor.

As widely reported, lobbying firm BGR, founded by, among others, Republican operative Ed Rogers, hosted a fundraiser for Terry McAuliffe on March 24. The fundraiser came about, according to Politico, because Rogers and McAuliffe had become good friends through sharing green rooms over the years while waiting to debate one another on television.

Still, I think the fundraiser was a fair subject for criticism. For one thing, BGR was always a firm with only Republican clientele, but began only recently taking on Democratic clients. When someone who is an ideological opponent helps a candidate raise money, it is certainly fair to ask what they hope to get out of it.

Here, in my view, it became a question of magnitude and judgment. My problem was not that Rogers and McAuliffe were friends, or that one friend might help out another. If all had Rogers had done was donate to McAuliffe’s campaign because they were friends, there would be little, if any, cause to complain.

But the organization of a fundraiser using the business name turned it into a business transaction, not a personal gesture of friendship. It thus became fair to ask what Rogers and BGR hoped to get out of the fundraiser. Perhaps enhanced credibility among democrats?

If so, it also became fair to address the propriety of a Democrat – any Democrat – helping this particular Republican to gain credibility. There was plenty of YouTube footage of Rogers, shilling for John McCain last fall on the talking head circuit, criticizing Barack Obama – some of it offensive, especially his despicable use of the President’s middle, Hussein, as a epithet designed to create the impression that he could not be trusted. Disgusting.

The assault on McAuliffe began on March 12 when “University of Virginia law student, Marine and citizen journalist” Mike Stark posted an article at Huffington Post entitled, “McAuliffe Still Sleeping with Dogs.” Stark crossposted to DK, using the title, “McAuliffe has lost it,” and exhorted readers to “make sure” the diary hit the Rec List (it wound up with 399 Recs).

Stark’s article was factual, even if one didn’t agree with the conclusions it drew. As with much of Stark’s anti-McAuliffe work over the past couple of months, however, it was aimed more at a guilt-by-association than anything else (consider, for example, the title, “Sleeping with Dogs”), arguing that we should judge this candidate by the company he keeps. It is a theme Stark had touched on previously with respect to McAuliffe (See “Don’t do this Virginia,” on Blue Commonwealth).

Beneath the ersatz sensationalism of these articles, what they are calling into question is McAuliffe’s judgment about whom he chooses to associate professionally and personally (although less convincing was Stark’s efforts to tie McAuliffe to some racist dude who jumped into a snapshot with T-Mac by referring to the guy as McAuliffe’s “pal.” This sort of overreaching does make one question the sincerity of Stark’s previous allegations).

The fundraiser took place on March 24, and the next day, the Moran campaign issued the following press release::

Moran Campaign Finds McAuliffe Fundraiser with Anti-Obama Operatives “Offensive”

ALEXANDRIA – Virginians for Brian Moran made the following statement about last night’s fundraiser for CEO Terry McAuliffe, hosted by Republican operative Ed Rogers at the lobbying firm he shares with Haley Barbour, Vice-Chair of the Republican Governors Association. Rogers has worked to defeat scores of Democrats nationwide, including President Barack Obama last year.

The Politico reported on the fundraiser yesterday afternoon:

Moran Campaign Manager Andrew Roos said:

“It’s offensive to see Terry McAuliffe raising money with the likes of Republican operative and lobbyist Ed Rogers. Rogers joined Rush Limbaugh and others in raising racially and religiously charged attacks against then Senator Obama. It’s sad that in the same week Terry McAuliffe aired a radio ad claiming credit for helping to elect Barack Obama, he’s holding a fundraiser with someone who did everything he could to defeat him. We need people who stand up to partner with President Obama in the White House not people who condone these kinds of Rove-style attacks.”


Several days later, the Moran campaign issued another press release, this time featuring several prominent Democrats from around the Commonwealth, commenting on McAuliffe raising money with “anti-Obama lobbyist Ed Rogers.” Here is that release:

Statements on Anti-Obama Fundraiser

~ Leaders express concern about host Ed Rogers, Republican Lobbyist and Operative Responsible for Some of the Most Negative and Divisive Attacks on Obama ~

ALEXANDRIA – In response to last week’s Washington Post article regarding anti-Obama Republican Lobbyist Ed Rogers, who hosted a fundraiser to support Terry McAuliffe’s campaign for governor, several prominent Virginia supporters of President Obama released the following statements.

“There has always been a question about whether Terry McAuliffe would really stand behind President Barack Obama if he were elected Governor of Virginia. It’s one thing to say you will, but by having a fundraiser with Ed Rogers he’s proven that he won’t,” said former Virginia Beach City Councilwoman Louisa Strayhorn. Strayhorn was elected to be a national delegate to the historic 2008 Democratic National Convention pledged to Barack Obama.

She continued, “Ed Rogers and Rush Limbaugh led and defended the nastiest and most divisive attacks against Barack Obama, and if Terry McAuliffe stands with him, then Terry McAuliffe is standing against Barack Obama just as he did during the presidential primary.”


“It is incredibly disappointing that Terry McAuliffe would raise money from people who led incredibly divisive attacks against President Obama during last year’s election,” Chesapeake City Councilman Bryan Collins said. “I know this will cause a great deal of skepticism about McAuliffe’s candidacy among the activists who worked so hard to elect the President.”

“Terry McAuliffe has been telling Virginia Democrats how much success he will bring with his fundraising prowess,” Norfolk Commissioner of Revenue Sharon McDonald said. “The Washington Post’s coverage of his fundraiser at the firm founded by Haley Barbour certainly begs the question: Why does he need to raise money from Ed Rogers, a Republican operative and Lee Atwater protégé, in the first place? Virginia Democrats find this offensive, and not the kind leadership we want in our next Governor.”

This criticism is clearly aimed at McAuliffe’s decision to allow Roger and his firm to raise money for his campaign. Given the case Moran made against McAuliffe, it is fair to conclude that any Democrat who associated with Rogers in this way ought to be subject to the same exact critique. If McAuliffe benefiting form a Rogers/BGR fundraiser is “offensive,” then isn’t any Democrat’s similar kind association with Rogers and BGR similarly “offensive?”

Say, for example, and, hey, I know this would never happen, but what if Rogers and BGR held a fundraiser for, oh, I don’t know, Mark Warner, well, we’d all have to reconsider our support … what…uh-oh … your kidding, right?

Unfortunately for Brian Moran, it’s no joke.

Anta Kumar of the Washington Post reported yesterday:

Last week, Democratic gubernatorial Brian Moran blasted his rival Terry McAuliffe for attending a Washington fundraiser hosted by BGR Group, a lobbying firm founded in part by Republican Ed Rogers.

But it turns out BGR and Rogers hosted a fundraiser for another Virginia Democrat.

A fundraiser honoring U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia was held in October 2008 when the former governor was running for Senate. The invitation included Rogers, along with nine other lobbyists with BGR, including former Bush aide Eric Burgeson, Lanny Griffith, who worked in the George H.W. Bush White House and Bob Wood, chief of staff to former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

What’s more, the usually mild Kumar seems to mock Moran, asking “So what does Moran say now?”

Here is Roos’ response to Kumar, as reported by the Post:

This isn't just about who you hold a fundraiser with. The question we've raised is about his close, continuing and broader relationship with Ed Rogers and we find it questionable."

Not exactly.

At no time did Mr. Roos raise the issue of McAuliffe’s “close, continuing and broader relationship with Ed Rogers?” In his first news release, he discussed only the fundraiser. The second release, consisting of third party quotes, references only the fundraiser. Neither release comes anywhere near limiting the criticism to “close, continuing and broader relationship.”

Secondly, Mr. Roos, did not say he found the relationship “questionable.” He said it was “offensive” and “sad.”

In light of the revelation that Rogers and BGR threw a similar affair for Warner as it did for McAuliffe, I understand the desire to walk the criticism back. But that is what happens when you let a blogger, in this case, Mike Stark, acting out of disdain for McAuliffe, not support of Moran, define your campaign message.

This isn’t the first time Moran’s efforts to criticize McAuliffe’s fundraising led to a serving of crow for him. Early in January, even before McAuliffe officially entered the race, Moran called on Creigh and McAuliffe not to accept out of state donations. According to the RTD:

The election should not be about "who can raise more money from national donors," Moran said. "Virginia Democrats should choose our nominee."

Amusingly, it took James Martin about three seconds to check VPAP and post a pair of extensive comments to NLS showing that Brian Moran, himself, had raised significant sums from outside of Virginia.

It has been painfully obvious for some time now that McAuliffe’s entrance in the race has thrown Moran and his campaign for a loop and generated several unforced errors in the campaign. But what, if anything, does it say about the kind of general election candidate than Moran might be, or the kind of Governor he might make.

Moran has never had a tough election. He hails from a strongly Democratic area where he benefited from strong name recognition from day one thanks to his brother. This is the first time Virginia has seen him in a hard-fought campaign, and it has not been pretty, featuring in addition to the gaffes discussed above:

-- An ill-advised attack launched against McAuliffe at the JJ dinner that left even many of Moran’s supporters uncomfortable;

-- A nasty campaign in the blogosphere against two bloggers in particular who endorsed McAuliffe, that has included some ethically dubious tactics, including the leaking of private e-mails and the leveling of unfounded allegations of impropriety by campaign volunteers;

-- The exposure, by a Moran consultant, of the identity of another anonymous blogger who was the administrator of a web site the Moran campaign considered hostile, forcing the administrator to shut down the site so as not to lose his employment;

-- Moran’s last-second resignation of his House of Delegates seat that nearly resulted in a Republican victory in the special election for the seat in the lopsided Democratic district;

In this past Presidential election, as the economy unraveled in the waning weeks of the Bush Administration, Americans got to see how the respective candidates would handle a crisis. John McCain was out of control, one day declaring the economy fundamentally strong, the next suspending his candidacy to run back to Washington to broker a deal, only to end up as a fly in the ointment that nearly prevented a deal. Barack Obama, meanwhile, took a measured approach, remained calm and exuded confidence. In November, Americans made their choice. We made the right one.

Virginia Democrats are now getting a chance to see how their three candidates are handling themselves in a difficult campaign.

To be fair to Moran, every campaign has its ups and downs. But this record of gaffes, ethical missteps and misjudgments, while different people might draw different conclusions from it, ought to fairly be considered in deciding for whom to vote on June 9.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Creigh to McDonnell: Apologize For These Hurtful Statements

Sen. Creigh Deeds joined Dick Cranwell, Sen. Mary Whipple and Cynthia Hull in calling on Bob McDonnell to condemn the divisive and unnecessary remarks of his campaign surrogate, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, concerning Virginians who live in the Northern part of the state, and to apolgize for "these hurtful statements."

As widely reported, Huckabee told a crown in Tazewell County that people in Northern Virginia think differently than they do ("I don't even know what that means," Creigh said), and that Northern Virginians don't know what it is like to have to "put a paycheck together."

Creigh likened Huckabee's ridiculous comments to those this past summer, when a John McCain supporter said the folks up in Northern Virginia who supported Barack Obama were not real Virginians.

Huckabee's foot-in-mouth episode also brings to mind George Allen's "Macaca Moment."

"We can't let Republicans pit Virginians against one another," Creigh said, noting that there are signs of economic distress, whether lost jobs, foreclosures or rising healthcare costs, that stretch across the Commonwealth. Times are tough all over.

"Bob McDonnell doesn't understand we are one Commonwealth," Creigh added. "We are all bound together. That's the only way it works."

Creigh further said "This [kind of attitude] sets us back," and it explains why Richmond can't accomplish anything, specifically citing the regional conflicts over transportation that have prevented Virginia from addressing this critical issue.

"What I say in one part of the state I say in every part of the state," Creigh said, explaining, for example, that he is willing to tell people in Southwest Virginia that for there to be transportation infrastructure improvements there, that those folks need to support road building in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.

Legally, Creigh said, a commonwealth is no different than a state. "But it's a wonderful metaphor for our common condition," he said.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Well, so much for Huckabee helping McDonnell

I agree with Lowell, this is outrageous.

I'm not sure it amounts to a proverbial Macaca moment for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the offensive utterance is not coming from the candidate himself, and the utterence itself is not racially offensive as it is representative of an ignorant attitude, especially this insult thrown at many of my friends in Northern Virginia:

"And they have never fully understood how hard it is for a lot of people to put a paycheck together."

Is he friggin' kidding me. Yes, many folks up there are professionals who make good money. They work damn hard for it. The busted their butts in colleges, law schools, medical school and other graduate schools. They busted their butts doing scut level work for years in law firms and government offices, and then, when they finally made it, they got the reward of stressful jobs that require 70-80 hours a week. Just un-friggin' believeable.

This signals that Bob McDonnell plans on running a campaign of class warfare and division in the Commonwealth. It won't work.

In that sense, maybe this is a "macaca" moment. For George Allen, it spelled a specific point in time when the divisive politics of race -- of the real Virginia vs. some vague and menacing "other" failed the GOP. This may turn out to be another watershed moment when the Commonwealth, as a whole, turns its back on this sort of divisive argument.

H/T to NLS

Meet Bradley Rees

Today, I learned about a gentleman down in Lynchburg named Bradley Rees, who aims to replace Tom Perriello as the Congressman from the Fifth District. Indeed, the other day, Mr. Rees called my friend, Drew Lumpkin, who runs one of the most civil, intelligent and interesting blogs around, Dem Bones, well, he called him a "rabble rouser."

Drew may be a “thoughtful theologian,” but he’s no “rabble rouser.”

Fighting words.

What’s more, Rees has been writing critical stuff about Congressman Perriello. Now, I happen to think Tom Perriello is one of the truly decent, ethical people in public life.

I was mad.

So, I sat down this evening with the intention of doing some research to utterly trash this clown.

Unfortunately, I came away unable to do it. In fact, I came away from it all kinda liking the guy, even wanting to meet him.

Don't get me wrong - he's flaky, but in this he seems more eccentric and interesting than anything else. And I’ve no doubt that in his misguided, if sincere way, he means well. What’s more, at least based on what I could learn from him in the Internets, he seems like a decent guy, a good family man, and a loving dad who posted a poem he wrote to his daughter on the web and captioned the accompanying photo of her, "My Princess." Indeed, the poem is an acrostic, something they make kids do in the fifth grade (where the first letters of each line spell your name) …. I’m sorry… I’m getting a little misty writing this…

So, please, meet Bradley Rees.

Anyway, politically, Rees describes himself as an “Ayn Rand Objectivist Libertarian/Conservative,” which is … well, I spent an hour researching this, and I couldn’t completely figure it out what it was, except that is somewhat contradictory, like being a Jewish Muslim.

But what’s more, Rees plans on challenging Virgil Goode for the Republican Party nod to run against Rep. Perriello in the Fighting Fifth, and if he doesn’t win, he plans on launching a third party candidacy, perhaps under the American Constitution Party ticket, to challenge both.

Here’s Rees, by the way (photo by Mrs. Bradley Rees):

His web site, the awesomely named SonofLiberty2K10, is one of the few web sites I have bothered to read that can fairly be called a ”Manifesto.” Mr. Rees sets out his political philosophy in detail, and explains the observations, events, and thought-processes that brought him to where he is.

For example, in a post entitled, “Why Am I A Libertarian? Read On,” he details the top 10 travesties of both Republicans and Democrats (20 travesties in all) to explain why he is not a member of either party.

In some places, he shines with unassailable logic. For example, #10 on the Democratic list is that Democrats “stood in staunch opposition to Abraham Lincoln,” while #10 on the Republican side is that it was “the party of Lincoln.”

The GOP’s # 10 reason also faults it for committing “egregious violations of the 1st Amendment (the Alien and Sedition Acts).” Of course, the Republican Party was founded in 1854, and the Alien & Sedition Acts were passed in 1798, so the GOP ought to get some points for time traveling ability.

Similarly, the #6 reason why he’s not a Democrat is because Democrats “grossly mishandled the Cold War with tragic incidents like the Bay of Pigs, which may have directly led to the Cuban missile crisis and Kruschev’s notorious shoe-banging diatribe.” Thus, Russians, too, have time traveling abilities, since Kruschey was alleged to have banged his show at the U.N. on October 13, 1960, while the Bay of Pigs occurred in April, 1961. Rees may have proved that Russians and Republicans are closer than we think. Hmmmm.

And like many people who profess a special kinship to the Constitution, Mr. Rees isn’t really sure what’s in there. In one post, he states:

Last time I checked, the Constitution didn’t say “life, liberty, and the pursuit of having lawyers making laws to benefit lawyers.” But that’s what we have (although the “liberty” part has been trampled on a bit).

Of course, last time I checked my Constitution it didn’t contain the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” which is the phrase to which Mr. Rees is alluding, either. That phrase appears in the Declaration of Independence.

But, as Mr. Rees says, “he is “not a lawyer,” which he touts as a rationale to vote for him.

And, anyway, these kinds of errors are nitpicking. Forget it. He’s rolling:

Mr. Rees, I wish you’d stop criticizing Congressman Perriello so much. He is a good and honest congressman trying to do the right thing, and he is good for our District, even if I don’t agree with him on everything. Some of your criticisms seem strained, like you're trying just a little too hard to find fault.

The Virginia Democrat is dedicated to electing Progressives, not Ayn Rand Objectivist Libertarian/Conservatives, so we can't endorse you. But in the spirit of pluralism, and with an abiding belief in American Constitutionalism, even if we interpret that differently than do you, we nonetheless salute you for putting yourself out there, caring and participating constructively in the political process. We hope you give Virgil a run for his money.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Virginia Gov. Polling Trends Show Deeds Gaining Ground

Cross-posted to Daily Kos

Well, I’ve had some time to look at the latest PPP poll, and the fact is that it holds the best news for …. wait for it …. Creigh Deeds!

I know I’m in the tank for Creigh and therefore biased, but hear me out on this one.

I have had, and still have, my doubts about the PPP poll for a few reasons (and I say this as someone who knows little about the science of polling). I don’t like their methodology of responding by pressing telephone buttons. I’m not convinced that their respondent dispersion across telephone area codes accurately reflects the Old Dominion’s Democratic voting population, and I fear that it may, ever so slightly, overweight NoVA and Hampton Roads while underweighting Richmond and rural Virginia. Lastly, apropos of nothing, PPP is from North Carolina, and what can I say, it bugs me that a North Carolina polling firm is encroaching on a Virginia election.

Some of these weaknesses can be seen in the data. For example, Republicans gave Brian Moran a Favorable/Unfavorable/Not Sure rating of 46/0/54. That is simply not believable or meaningful.

But all those complaints aside, for all of its flaws this is the third poll this organization has provided (Feb.3, March 3 and March 30), and since it is using the same methodology each time, its trends are arguably revealing, even if it usefulness as an accurate snapshot is not. And it is those trends that clearly show the race, while still firmly up in the air, is going Creigh’s way.

The Favorable/Unfavorable Spread

On Feb.3, the following percentage of respondents had no opinion on the candidates, respectively:

Deeds: 67
Moran: 57
McAuliffe: 47

Thus, Deeds was the least known of the three by a wide margin. In the most recent poll, from March 30, those percentages had been reduced as follows:

Deeds: 57
Moran: 51
McAuliffe: 39

Deeds is still the least known, but not by the same margin. Indeed, 10% of respondents had formed an opinion of him over the last 60 days; 6% of respondents for Brian Moran, and 8% for Terry Mcauliffe.

So, how is each candidate doing among these most recent deciders. We can evaluate that by comparing the Favorable/Unfavorable from Feb. 3 to those of March 30.

Here are the Feb. 3 results (followed by the spread):

Deeds: 23/11 +12
Moran: 34/10 +24
McAuliffie 30/23 +7

Here are the Favorable/Unfavorable results from March 30 (again, followed by the spread):

Deeds: 31/12 +19
Moran: 34/15 +19
McAuliffe 32/29 +3

See what is happening. As voters are making up their minds on the candidates, both Moran and McAuliffe are going backwards, while Deeds is surging ahead. Of course, polls are not quite so neat, but here is one way to look at it from a macro level: of the respondents who made up their mind about Deeds between Feb. 3 and March 30, 80% came away with a favorable impression of Creigh, while only 10% did not (the rest, presumably, lost to the God of Rounding).

Of the voters who formed an opinion about Brian Moran, however, some 85% formed a negative opinion of him, with 0% forming a positive one (again, rounding with the law of small numbers accounting for the discrepancy). As for McAuliffe, 75% of the voters who reached an opinion came to an unfavorable opinion about him, while only 25% came to a favorable opinion.

Ok, But What About The Horse Race?

Looking at the absolute numbers from the most recent poll (March 30), Brian Moran declared victory for this round of polling, justified because he pulled ahead of Terry Mcauliffe:

Moran: 22
McAuliffe: 18
Deeds: 15
Undecided: 45

Here is how they polled March 3:

Moran: 19
McAuliffe: 21
Deeds: 14
Undecided: 46

But take a look at how they polled Feb. 3:

Moran: 18
McAuliffe: 18
Deeds: 11
Undecided: 53

From early March to late March, McAuliffe and Moran exchanged supporters, but undecideds did not budge. There was a movement from undecided respondents from February through March, with at a clear plurality arguably settling with Creigh.

In this respect, these numbers support the clear Favorable/Unfavorable findings, above, that this race is moving, slowly but surely, Creigh’s way, although that said, it is difficult to draw any firm conclusion from this set of data.

When looking at the March 30 results, however, several anecdotal factors jump out that suggest this poll may be overestimating support for both McAuliffe and Moran, and thus underestimating support for Creigh:

- In the 276 area code, which is Southwest Virginia, the most rural part of the state and a natural Deeds constituency, McAuliffe is pulling an astounding 19% (see below for a possible explanation of this).
- In 703 AC (28% or respondents), which is Northern Virginia and Moran’s strongest territory, only 32% are undecided. In comparison, 68% are undecided in 276 AC, 47% in 434 AC and 39% in 540 AC, all three area that are rural in nature (representing 32% of respondents) and more likely to lean towards Creigh. In other words, Creigh has greater potential in his strongholds than Moran has in his.
- The 757 and 804 area codes, representing Hampton Roads and Richmond, respectively, are harder to decipher, at least to the extent that no candidate lays a natural geographic claim to those areas by virtue of demographic identification. But, again, Deeds owns the most attractive Favorable/Unfavorable split in those area codes.

So, What Might Be Happening?

Brian Moran was fast out of the gate in this contest, even though Creigh was the first to declare. Early on, Moran set up the more extensive organization, raised the most money, paid the most consultants and concentrated on gathering the most endorsements. Much of his support developed and coalesced early in the race.

McAuliffe came into the race like gangbusters, with a lot of money and personality to spare, not to mention national media connections that got him a lot of press and a ready base of support among Hillary Clinton supporters (perhaps explaining that 19% in the 276 area code).

For the first 45 days of the year, Creigh was in Richmond, somewhat invisible, doing the job he was elected to do, representing the people of his district in the General Assembly. Brian Moran, of course, famously resigned his seat just before the session began so he could campaign and fundraise during the session, and Terry McAuliffe has never held public office. So Creigh was a bit late from the starting gate, in terms of exposure, campaigning, fundraising and organization.

Moran and McAuliffe have been out there for a while, and Democrats remained undecided. Now, slowly, but surely, Creigh has been catching up, and as he does, and as Democratic voters are taking a closer look, they seem to be liking what they see and gravitating toward him.

As far as trends go, Newton's Laws of Motion applies. A candidate in motion will continue in motion until something stops him.