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Deeds races to ensure Obama's voters are his voters, too

Busy banging on doors

McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said his campaign, too, has out-knocked and out-called any previous Republican campaign in Virginia history.

"We've knocked on more than double the amount of doors in Virginia this year than were knocked on by the GOP in this state in last year's presidential," Martin said. "If they're ramping up, we're ramping up."

Even when he is campaigning, Deeds's demeanor does not make for easy connections with voters he doesn't know.

"I'm Creigh Deeds. I'm sorry to bother you," he said repeatedly as he shook hands with lunchgoers sitting at outdoor restaurants in Shirlington this month, a campaign stop with U.S. Sen. Mark Warner. Deeds made his way efficiently through the restaurants; Warner perpetually trailed as he got caught in conversation. At one table, two men got Warner talking about a vineyard the senator owns in rural Virginia. At another, with a roar of laughter, Warner kissed an elderly woman on the head, who then asked him about health-care reform.

Deeds is rarely drawn into such moments. When he shares the stage at events, his speech is routinely shorter than the warm-up act. When crowds chant his name as he takes the microphone, he often begs them to please stop. Unlike most politicians, he seems to mean it.

Even if the Deeds campaign succeeds in motivating Democrats in the final two weeks, he faces tough odds of catching McDonnell. A Washington Post poll conducted in early October showed McDonnell ahead by nine points.

Judging competence

Respondents judged McDonnell to be more competent to handle virtually every major issue the state faces, and he garnered more enthusiasm among Republicans than Deeds did among Democrats.

"Every campaign comes down to the candidate, the message and the organization, and we have advantages in all three areas," Martin said. "The Democrats have won everything in this state from prom queen to president. They have not lost many elections. I think that's a data point in our favor. You are looking at Republicans who are very hungry."

What gives Democrats hope is that McDonnell's numbers haven't moved much over several months, while Deeds is weak in voter groups where he has room to grow: among young Democrats and African Americans.

"They're not showing up in the polls, but if they show up at the polls on Election Day, then it will be 'game over,' " Abbey said in a conference call with reporters Monday.

Deeds was well-received over the weekend, with cheering crowds and enthusiastic congregations greeting him -- and with fellow politicians and community leaders careful to mention Obama whenever they could.

"President Obama -- how many of you love him?" asked Yvonne Jones Bibbs, pastor of Sixth Baptist Church in Richmond. "Well, he has issued a call. We need to elect Creigh Deeds."

The congregation's members cheered, but they were even louder when Deeds spoke about making college more affordable, not allowing children to fall through the cracks of public schools, and being described, four years ago, as the "nobody from nowhere" who almost beat McDonnell for attorney general.

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