Deeds, McDonnell campaign on day before Va. governor's election

Thousands of campaign staffers and volunteers fan out across the state, knocking on doors and making phone calls to urge that voters go to the polls Tuesday and cast a ballot for Republican Robert F. McDonnell or Democrat R. Creigh Deeds in the closely watched race for Virginia governor.
By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Democrat R. Creigh Deeds and Republican Robert F. McDonnell campaigned across Virginia on Monday, leading efforts to draw out voters with a blitz of door-knocking, phone-calling and TV advertising in the final hours of the hard-fought race for governor.

McDonnell called on supporters and volunteers to take voters to polls Tuesday, and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin recorded a phone call that was piped into homes across the state urging people to "vote your values." Deeds ended the day rallying in Alexandria with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D).

Also on the ballot are candidates for lieutenant governor, attorney general and all 100 seats in the House of Delegates. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

State election officials said they were hoping for a voter turnout rate of about 45 percent, which would be on par with recent governor's races. Hitting 45 percent, or 2.2 million voters, would set a record for a Virginia governor's race, although it would fall below turnout in last year's president election, when 3.8 million Virginians voted.

About one-third more voters -- 99,000 -- have cast absentee ballots than four years ago, according to the State Board of Elections. It was unclear whether that number swelled because more voters are using the absentee system or because voter enthusiasm is higher.

McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said Palin did not record her call at the request of McDonnell or the Republican Party of Virginia. He said the campaign had no firsthand knowledge of the calls, which began Sunday. They don't mention McDonnell, who distanced himself from Palin after initially asking for her help on the campaign trail.

"Virginia, hello. This is Sarah Palin calling to urge you to go to the polls Tuesday and vote to share our principles," Palin says in the call. "The eyes of America will be on Virginia, and make no mistake about it: Every vote counts. So don't take anything for granted. Vote your values on Tuesday, and urge your friends and family to vote, too."

Palin drew enthusiastic crowds in Virginia while campaigning as Sen. John McCain's running mate last year, but she was also a polarizing figure in the presidential race and turned off some independent voters. Her appearance in the final days of the Virginia governor's race coincides with several comments from McDonnell and his advisers in which they have sounded a more conservative tone than during much of the campaign.

At a recent speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, McDonnell said he would "stand up strong" against same-sex marriage and "protect the unborn." He told conservative talk-radio host Laura Ingraham that it has been his position "all along" to use his veto pen to block state funding of Planned Parenthood.

Deeds and his allies have been working to invigorate the Democratic base by blazing through the state's urban areas and talking up President Obama's popularity. U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) called Virginia's Republican slate the "Taliban ticket" to underscore its conservatism.

But by most accounts, Deeds faces a more difficult task than McDonnell in drawing out his party's base to vote. Polls show that Republicans, hungry after years of electoral defeats in Virginia, appear headed to vote in large numbers but that Democrats are unexcited about Deeds.

"The dynamics are that the party out of power is energized," said Larry J. Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. "This electorate is going to be so disproportionately Republican that if it had shown up last year, John McCain would have handily won."

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