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.