McDonnell Leads in TV Ad Spending for Va. Governor's Race

By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 2, 2009

RICHMOND, Oct. 1 -- Republican Robert F. McDonnell and his supporters are outspending Democrat R. Creigh Deeds and his backers nearly 2 to 1 on TV ads in the closely watched race for Virginia governor.

That is unlikely to change in the month before the election Nov. 3.

The Republican Governors Association began spending $1.7 million Thursday on TV ads in the expensive Washington media market attacking Deeds for his willingness to raise taxes.

National political groups are expected to pour at least $23 million into the race, much of it for advertising.

Democrats spent much of their money early on to attack McDonnell while he ran unopposed for his party's nomination. That decision has led some Democrats to grow concerned about McDonnell's advantage and to call on the Democratic Governors Association to match its GOP counterpart.

"It is mind-boggling that the DGA is not contributing at least as much to Deeds as the RGA is giving to McDonnell," said Mark Bowles, a Richmond lawyer who is a longtime Democratic activist and a Deeds supporter. "Given the stakes and how competitive this race is, it shouldn't even be a close call."

McDonnell, a former state attorney general, has led in almost every poll of the general election, but his advantage has narrowed considerably since Deeds began highlighting the Republican's conservative social issues and 20-year-old graduate school thesis.

"The Democrats have to match the Republicans dollar for dollar if Deeds is going to be elected governor," said Stephen Farnsworth, a political analyst at George Mason University. "The circumstances are unfavorable for Democratic candidates in Virginia right now. Deeds is not generating a lot of enthusiasm. He needs the electorate of 2009 to look like the electorate of 2008."

The RGA has donated $2 million directly to McDonnell and spent almost $4 million more since late August on ads that accuse Deeds, a state senator from Bath County, of supporting large government spending and tax increases. The DGA has contributed $1 million to Deeds and spent slightly more than $3 million in the spring on ads that criticized McDonnell for opposing federal stimulus money.

The DGA has spent more on this year's Virginia race than on any other contest in the group's history -- and more than three times as much as it spent on Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's race in 2005.

In New Jersey, the only other state with a governor's race this year, the DGA has spent $3.2 million, and the RGA has spent more than $5 million.

Nathan Daschle, the DGA's executive director, said the group's spring ads successfully turned voters away from McDonnell and allowed Deeds to remain competitive. "The more people got to know Bob McDonnell, the less they liked him," he said.

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