I got a chance to chat for 10 minutes with Creigh Deeds this afternoon as he was driven from one event to another here in Charlottesville, where he kicked off the “Deeds Country” tour in front of a pumped-up crowd on the Downtown Mall.
It actually was a great event here in C’ville. Congressman Tom Perriello was there, as was C’ville’s excellent mayor, Dave Norris. Charlottesville’s Delegate Dave Toscano gave a great speech introducing Creigh.
No lack of Democratic enthusiasm here.
Anyway, here is the edited Q&A:
Some say this race is going to depend upon attracting independents, others see it as a base race. How do you see it?
I don’t know if I think about it that way. You’ve got to drive your base out, but it’s going to be decided by independents. If we drive out the Democratic base, we’re still going to need a few votes.
Here’s the encouraging part for Democrats. Over the last few years, and with the Obama race, we’ve registered probably a half a million new Democrats. If we could turn out those voters, and history suggests we’re not going to be able to turn them all out, if we could turn out those voters, it could be a base race. But I think we’re going to have to find some independents too.
Where are you going to find them? Is that a geographical issue?
A lot of them are in rural Virginia. A lot of them are the voters we want to reach out too [with the Deeds Country tour]. But there are independent voters all over the place.
I’m a Democrat. I’ve been a Democrat all my life, but I’ve never been a partisan about issues. I’ve got an independent voting record, I think.
Hopefully, we’re going to be able to drive the Democratic vote out. If we do that, plus a few independents, we’re going to be all right.
There’s been some polling recently [and] one thing it has showed is that there is a lack of enthusiasm on the part of Democrats so far. Do you sense that in your campaign, and if so, why do you think that might be? [Note: of course, 10 minutes after asking this question, we arrived at a very enthusiastic reception at the Downtown Mall]
Let’s face it; we changed politics forever in Virginia last year with the election of Barack Obama. We overcame a 44-year curse. We’ve got another curse to overcome this year. It’s been since 1965 that we elected a Democratic governor when a Democrat was in the White House. Particularly after we elected Barack Obama last year, there are a lot of people that are complacent.
But it’s not just about this race. Look at the results in Northern Virginia in the special elections that occurred this past Winter and Spring. It’s a problem we’re going to have to work hard to overcome. There are many people who think we’ve [unintelligible] before we’ve needed to, and they’re asleep to state races. We’re going to have to try to find a way to energize those voters. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine were, frankly, elected because in their own ways they were able to convince enough Federal Election Year voters to turn out to vote in ’01 and ’05. We’re going to try to get those people out to vote.
Also, we’ve got these Obama bubble voters. After a presidential year, there’s always some complacency in the election and voter turnout. We won last year. We elected a U.S. Senator. We took the majority of Congressman. We carried Virginia for a Democratic candidate for the first time in 44 years. There does seem to be a tremendous amount of complacency. We’re going to have to work as hard as we can to overcome that, to get people energized, to make them understand that this election does matter, that this election, frankly, is important to them. After all the work we’ve done, the accomplishments we’ve made through Mark Warner and Tim Kaine as Governor, all that can come to a screeching halt if we’re not successful this year. Failure is not an option.
We’re almost there, so let me ask you a quick question. The conventional wisdom is that this election is going to turn on jobs and the economy. Tell me three other issues that you think might figure in this election and give me some sharp differences between you and Bob McDonnell on them.
I think basically it all comes down to the economy. It all comes down to jobs, transportation and education, because it’s all related to the ability to build the smartest workforce and the best transportation system in the country.
Other issues: Stem cell research. I’m for it, Bob McDonnell is against it. Choice. I trust Virginia’s women, Bob McDonnell doesn’t. There is any number of issues.
Do you think Bob McDonnell is going to be able to keep up his masquerade as a moderate throughout this election?
He is always going to revert to what’s comfortable. And what’s comfortable [for him] is right wing.
What do you make of these birthers?
Birthers? Tell me about that.
They question whether or not Barack Obama was born in the United States.
I read recently that something like 40% of Republican voters, or self-described Republican voters, say that they question whether the President was born in the United States. People just don’t have much to worry about if that’s what they’re thinking about.