Obama Stumps in Va. for Democrat Deeds in Race for Governor

President Barack Obama stumps for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds at his rally in McLean on Thursday night. Video by John Johnston/The Washington Post
By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 7, 2009

The first Democratic president to win Virginia in more than four decades encouraged his supporters Thursday night to return to the polls in November and elect Democrat R. Creigh Deeds governor.

President Obama met first with about 200 of Deeds's top donors and then rallied with about 1,500 cheering, sign-waving Deeds supporters in a ballroom at the McLean Hilton Tysons Corner.

Obama said Sen. Mark Warner and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, both Democrats, had created a tradition of pragmatic, bipartisan leadership that helped the state weather the economic recession better than others.

"That's not just a stroke of good luck here in the state of Virginia," the president told the crowd. "It's because you stood up and chose that kind of politics. . . . Now you've got the chance to keep moving forward with someone who's cut from the same cloth, somebody who has that same vision for the commonwealth: Creigh Deeds."

Obama and Deeds were joined on stage by Kaine, who is also chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a close Obama ally.

Obama urged crowd members to "get fired up again" and convert their enthusiasm into energy to elect Deeds.

It was the president's first campaign stop for the rural state senator since Deeds won his party's nomination in the June 9 primary. The two men spoke by phone the day after that, and Obama pledged that he would do what he could to help Deeds win the governor's mansion and succeed Warner and Kaine.

Obama could prove critical in revving up Democratic voters for Deeds, sparking interest among some of the thousands of new ones who were inspired by his campaign last year. His endorsement could be particularly useful in convincing young voters and African Americans that they should support Deeds.

In the race for attorney general four years ago, Deeds lost to Republican Robert F. McDonnell by 360 votes. Deeds's vote totals in majority-black districts lagged behind Kaine's. He faces McDonnell for the state's top job, and this time he hopes to boost his support in areas that saw record turnout for Obama.

The visit came as McDonnell has been working to nationalize the race, confident that Virginia voters are souring on Obama and his agenda.

The crowd in the ballroom instead seemed to revel in a chance to return to last year's campaign fervor, breaking out in rounds of "O-bama!" and "Yes, we can!"

McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin struck a measured tone about the rally, welcoming Obama to Virginia and saying it is "always an honor" to host a president in the state.

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