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Virginia Notebook

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By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 25, 2009

The uncola.

It has been a few weeks since Democratic voters chose state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (Bath) as their nominee for governor. He will compete against former Republican attorney general Robert F. McDonnell in November. Deeds stomped two candidates who had run such vigorous and well-funded campaigns, some additional analysis is needed to understand how he managed to amass 50 percent of the vote June 9.

And one answer that hasn't gotten a ton of attention might just be that Deeds was the uncola. The anti-Terry.

Staff members for former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe insisted through Election Day and beyond that their internal polls had McAuliffe with high favorable ratings. For all the reasons their guy lost, the idea that voters just didn't like him was not among them, they have said.

Of course, the same aides had said their internal polls showed the race was a dead heat between McAuliffe and Deeds as late as a couple of hours before polls closed. Those numbers? Not quite right.

It was, in fact, not hard to spot voters who were giving McAuliffe less than perfect favorable ratings.

"He's not a Virginian. The guy is running 'cause he's bored. What's he ever ran? How does raising money for politicians make you qualified to be a politician?" a 66-year-old voter who would give only his first name, Ray, told a Post reporter at an elementary school in Arlington.

McAuliffe was too tied to "the Clinton machine," said Ron Fisher, 70, a retiree from Ballston voting at Washington-Lee High School.

Fred Lamb, a resident of Montclair in Prince William County, told a reporter that he knew McAuliffe had a lot of money but that he didn't believe McAuliffe could bring new and fresh ideas to the race.

Despite a well-run campaign, there is growing evidence that McAuliffe just never caught on with Virginians.

Maybe it was that people decided that despite 17 years domiciled in McLean, McAuliffe had spent too much time in New Hampshire and Iowa and Florida and too little time in Richmond. He hadn't earned the helm of a state government.

Maybe his pledge to shake things up in the capital city failed to sway Democrats, who have generally given Democratic governors Mark Warner and Timothy M. Kaine high marks.


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