Deeds Hopes to Persuade Va.'s Disaffected Democrats

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 17, 2009

Virginia Democrat R. Creigh Deeds started a two-day swing through Northern Virginia on Friday, working to spark enthusiasm for his candidacy among core Democratic groups that have not fervently embraced his campaign for governor.

Deeds's push coincides with an announcement by his campaign and the White House that President Obama will return to Virginia on Oct. 27 to campaign for the state senator, as Deeds looks to capture the votes of Virginians who were energized by Obama's election last year. Organizing for America, Obama's political organization, on Thursday sent e-mails to thousands of its members, including in Maryland and the District, asking for volunteers to knock on doors for Deeds, with a goal of working 5,000 hours by next weekend.

"Eighteen days is not much time. But it's enough time. I need your help to make sure we pull out every single vote we can. We've done it before," Deeds told volunteers in Falls Church on Friday evening. "We demanded change, and we got it. I'm here to say the work is not finished."

Deeds was in McLean on Friday with former vice president Al Gore and will return to Northern Virginia next week for an event with former president Bill Clinton.

His opponent, Republican Robert F. McDonnell, holds a rally on Saturday for veterans in Virginia Beach alongside Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the first Republican presidential candidate not to carry Virginia in 44 years. But in this race, two-thirds of McCain supporters say they are certain to vote Nov. 3, compared with half of Obama voters, according to a recent Washington Post poll.

Deeds, whose roots are in rural Bath County, has spent considerable time in the Shenandoah Valley and in southwest Virginia trying to persuade more conservative voters that he would be a fighter for opportunities in the state's sometimes forgotten corners. It is a message that has not always been a perfect fit in more affluent Northern Virginia, where many voters think too few of their dollars remain in the region as it is.

"It's great for him to say 'I want to be a man of all the people.' That's what he should be. But in order to become one, he has to first be a man of the majority," said Del. David E. Poisson (D-Loudoun).

But Poisson and other Democrats say Deeds's efforts in Northern Virginia have picked up and shifted considerably in recent days. Since the start of last month, Deeds said he has spent more than half his time in Northern Virginia. On conference calls with elected officials, a new message has emerged to filter out to volunteers, said Del. David L. Englin (D-Alexandria).

"A month ago, it was 'drive home the thesis; drive home the thesis,' " said Englin of McDonnell's controversial 1989 dissertation, in which the former attorney general wrote that working women are detrimental to the family. "Now it's . . . let's make sure we're talking about transportation and education, too -- why Creigh really is better for Northern Virginia."

Deeds was also in Sterling on Friday, and Saturday's tour is an all-day swing with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), chairman of the Democratic National Committee, alongside lieutenant governor candidate Jody Wagner. The group will campaign with Latino, Vietnamese and Ethiopian voters. They will be joined in the late afternoon by attorney general candidate Steven Shannon on the campus of the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg.

The Post poll showed that Deeds's support in Northern Virginia, a region critical to Obama's victory, has softened since last month. It also indicated that blacks and young voters, critical parts of Obama's winning coalition, make up far smaller portions of this year's electorate than last year's.

Deeds has been dogged by criticism from within his own party that he has not spent enough time and attention on such groups.

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