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Potomac Confidential

Race to Richmond: Election Returns

The Democratic candidates for governor, from left, Brian J. Moran, R. Creigh Deeds and Terry R. McAuliffe, faced off last month at Northern Virginia Community College's Annandale campus, the last of several debates. Polls show that most voters have remained undecided as the primary election draws near.
The Democratic candidates for governor, from left, Brian J. Moran, R. Creigh Deeds and Terry R. McAuliffe, faced off last month at Northern Virginia Community College's Annandale campus, the last of several debates. Polls show that most voters have remained undecided as the primary election draws near. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
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Marc Fisher
Washington Post Enterprise Editor
Tuesday, June 9, 2009; 7:00 PM

Washington Post Enterprise Editor Marc Fisher was online Tuesday, June 9, at 7 p.m. ET to discuss the returns as they come in for the Virginia primary elections, including the governor's race, lieutenant governor and four state districts (35, 38, 47, 52).

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Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks. It was a dark and stormy election morning in Virginia and now it's a dark and stormy election evening, which, depending on your view of the murky crossplay between weather and politics, could determine the Democratic candidate for governor, or not.

That and many other questions lie before us as we watch for first returns in today's Virginia Democratic primary. I'll be here for this initial conversation, then back again at the top of each hour through the evening as we collect and interpret the results in the governor's race as well as in key House of Delegates contests in northern Virginia and around the commonwealth.

Come ahead with your comments, questions and observations. Did you vote? How light was the turnout where you were? Any thoughts on the relevance of late polling showing state Sen. Creigh Deeds pushing ahead of Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran? Is the Washington Post's strong and somewhat surprising editorial endorsement of Deeds as much of a factor as the Deeds camp would have us believe? Has McAuliffe's dominance in fundraising made a big difference--and if so, in which direction? (That is, do Virginia voters recoil at the idea of big-dollar, out-of-state money pouring into a state race?) Was this race Brian Moran's to lose and did a lackluster campaign knock him out of the lead?

We'll get into all that. Meanwhile, the campaigns were spinning their messages right up to the final hour of voting. The McAuliffe campaign was pushing hard to boost turnout all day; they concede that Deeds has been coming on strong, but they say their last night of polling indicated that those two were just about even.

The Moran folks say that the turnout numbers "are pretty good" for them, according to Steve Jarding, the campaign's consultant. "We're very cautiously optimistic." He talked about how sheriffs and mayors across the state are calling around to their networks of voters, and "in low turnout primaries, that stuff's gold." Well, maybe, but Moran has to win overwhelmingly in northern Virginia to have any chance, and the movement toward Deeds in the Washington suburbs has been palpable late in the campaign.

Deeds' campaign manager, Joe Abbey, pronounced himself "very confident," a whole different level of rhetoric than the others, for whatever that's worth. "In the last two weeks, we've had a great surge of momentum in northern Virginia," he said.

We'll also be watching the House races in Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William, a couple of which could be quite close indeed.

On to your comments and questions--and hey, it's good to be back with you for this special edition of Potomac Confidential...and there'll be more of these from time to time. (Also going on even as we type--the baseball draft. Get yer red hot updates from Chico Harlan over on Nats Journal, but feel free to mix topics here too...)

Posted 6:54 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Fairfax, Va.: Ok, we had violent storms here in Northern Virginia (Moran's stronghold) and unpleasant weather farther south along the shore (McAuliffe's stronghold) but all things bright and beautiful in the Shenandoah Valley? Maybe God is trying to tell us something!

Marc Fisher: But early word had very low turnout in the Shenandoah, so be careful of conclusions or predictions based on weather.

Still, there's a school of thought that lousy weather keeps marginal voters away more than the party regulars for whom voting is a religion. If that holds true, it's indeed McAuliffe who would have the most to worry about--his is the strategy most dependent on luring back the Obama primary voters who were previously quite sour on the voting process.

Posted 7:00 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Gilbert's Corner, Va.: So what percent of the turnout do you figure to be McDonnell supporters?

Marc Fisher: Very, very low. U-Va political scientist Larry Sabato has made something of a sub-specialty of debunking the notion that Virginia's open primaries really attract anything close to a meaningful number of partisans crossing the line to do mischief to the other party's primary. Sure, you can find some examples of folks who get their jollies that way, but it just doesn't add up to enough to have much of an impact.

That said, if at the end of tonight we have a real squeaker of a result, that topic will once again rear its ugly head.

Posted 7:02 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Woodbridge, Va,.: Is it possible to determine what influence, if any, The Washington Post's endorsement for governor and lt. governor had on the outcome of the race?

Marc Fisher: If Deeds wins, his campaign will likely credit, however grudgingly, The Post's endorsement for giving him an essential boost in northern Virginia, muting Moran's home field advantage and allowing the rural senator to poke through. But the influence of editorial endorsements is a hotly debated little corner of political science, and anyone, with or without an academic credential, can see that the influence of such endorsements recedes with the decline in circulation of many newspapers. But consider this: In an era of enormous expansion of voices in politics, it is ever harder to attain mass audience--for politicians as well as for news media, so a newspaper endorsement may in a strange way have a greater impact today than it did when the audience wasn't as splintered as it is in today's atomized media landscape.

Posted 7:03 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Rockville, Md.: Why do newspapers need to endorse political candidates? I think it's an anachronism. I would argue that the proper role of the press is to report on candidates as much as possible, but why not let voters make up their own minds about who to vote for? (By the way, this is my opinion when The Post endorses the candidate I prefer as well as otherwise.)

Marc Fisher: Papers don't need to make endorsements, and indeed some have dropped the practice (and did so long before the industry's economic troubles began.) Their argument is that endorsements somehow taint the independence of their news reporting.

But I don't get the distinction between endorsing candidates and writing editorials. If you're going to take positions on your editorial page, why not go all the way and give readers the benefit of your editorialists' thinking based on their meetings with the candidates?

I don't see much value in newspapers endorsing in presidential races, but on local races, I love to read endorsements, ideally from many papers, to hear good, reasoned arguments for and against candidates whom I as a voter am not likely to get to meet in any depth.

Posted 7:05 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Silver Spring, Md.: Mark,

Could you explain how Virginia counts and reports results? Is it like D.C. where there are morning and evening boxes or do we just wait until all the ballots are driven to a county courthouse to be counted? When should returns be trickling in?

I presume there are no exit polls so I guess we just have to wait.

Marc Fisher: Right--no exit polls on this race. Way too expensive.

No, Virginia doesn't do the AM and PM boxes like the District and many other locales. As Post reporter Amy Gardner explains it to me, "the precincts report the results by phone after polls close at 7. Plus most of it is electronic, so they can't get the results out of the ballot machines until they're done counting."

Posted 7:06 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Arlington, Va.: Hi, Marc,

It's good to see you hosting this chat. I voted today at around 4:00 and there was no line at all at my polling station near Ballston.

I voted for Deeds, Wagner and Hope.

Marc Fisher: Sounds from what we're hearing like we'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who experienced an actual queue of voters today. Blame the weather, election fatigue after last year's marathon, or a campaign that never seemed quite to break through to the public consciousness, but the turnout numbers we've been hearing all day are very, very low.

Posted 7:08 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Ashburn, Va.: I voted around 9:30 this morning and I was the only one there. I think I was the 48th voter since the polls opened. I was also the only person in my office wearing an "I Voted" sticker. Why don't more people vote in primaries when there are enough differences in candidates that who wins may mean another Democrat in Richmond or not? Is everyone just election-weary after two years of almost non-stop national campaigns?

Marc Fisher: Many of the voters I spoke to earlier in the campaign talked about being full up on politics, thank you. They just didn't want to hear it anymore.

There are political scientists who have long argued that voter turnout in this country remains low in part because we have it so good here, and general satisfaction with life and government leads to apathy. If that theory were right, though, you might expect turnout to rise in tough times--unless there's also deep cynicism about government's ability to make real change in the economy or the rest of our lives.

Posted 7:10 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Fairfax County, Va.: Submitting this early, for your reply while we await the results. I feel as though this race is more uncertain than any one that I have voted in for many years. Usually I'm pretty sure whether "my guy" (Deeds, in my case) will win or not. This time I have absolutely no idea. Does that sound right to you?

We have many polls from the last few days, but every legit analysis seems to say the polling results may not mean anything (!). As a Dem, I think the choice of nominee will determine our chances in the fall, yet the low turnout makes me feel like I'm basically watching a roulette wheel.

Marc Fisher: All three of the candidates' managers have at one point or another referred to the results either with that metaphor or something akin to it--in very low turnout races, you put tremendous effort into getting out the votes you can be reasonably certain of, and that's really all you can do. McAuliffe tried to change the game by making a much broader appeal, using his huge financial advantage to reach out to many people who were just never going to vote. But he's also very deep into classic and newfangled ways of getting people to take that final step to the polls.

Still, if you put any stock in the polls, and most of the polls in this race were kind of flimsy because we simply don't know who is going to vote, they were showing an extremely close race until right near the end, when the Deeds surge seemed to happen. Maybe.

Posted 7:13 p.m., 6.9.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Polls Close After Stormy Day Brings Trickle of Voters (Post, 7:11 p.m. ET)

Posted 7:14 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Chantilly, Va.: Hi Marc, thank you for hosting this forum. I went out and voted at 6:00, right as the storms began, and the polling staffers remarked that the 3 of us there constituted a "rush hour" at that electoral location. Interestingly, though, when I cast my ballot at the same location in Nov. for the presidential campaigns, there were fewer than 8 people present (it was close to poll closing hour, however). I'm now wondering if my precinct is unusually non-participative or if this is just coincidence! At any rate, my daughter reported reasonable voter turnout at her office in Sterling, Va., and stated that most in her office had voted for McAuliffe. This was a hard race to vote in: I spent more than 3 hours today alone debating for whom to vote, so similar are their platforms. I did think, however, that Moran had the best Web site; Deeds and McAuliffe the worst, with McAuliffe's looking smart but lacking in substantive ideas to back up his platform and Deeds' with plenty of ideas, but lacking some areas of comment (such as immigration reform) and having the least "slick" looking Web site -- which makes sense based on his reported lack of funding until recent days. May I ask, who is looking strongest in Northern Virginia as of now?

Thank you.

Marc Fisher: Three votes is a rush? Yikes.

Interesting--do you credit a candidate with having a cool-looking and informative web site? As my daughter was scouting around for colleges, my wife and I always debated whether the quality of the web sites told us anything about the quality of the school. I said No, it only tells us something about the quality of the web design firm the school hired, whereas she argued that that choice by the college somehow reflects their philosophy, approach and yes, quality. I don't know who's right, but I tend to ignore differences in web site quality among candidates. How about you all?

Posted 7:16 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Arlington, Va.: Heard any reports of voting machine difficulties or power outages around the state, given all these storms?

Marc Fisher: Nothing serious.

Again from the great Amy Gardner, who has been monitoring this very question all day long:

"There were 45-minute lockdowns at two precincts in Virginia Beach due to a reported gunman in the area. Power went out at four precincts across the state but they all had contingency plans and backup batteries for the machines, so voting was not interrupted. All this according to the State Board of Elections."

Posted 7:17 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Anonymous: When would you expect to be able to make a call. I voted at 8 a.m. in Mclean and was voter number 28.

Marc Fisher: Right now at 7:18, we have four percent of the precincts reporting, meaningless numbers. Some parts of the state move really fast. Others are chronically slow. Fairfax is always a crap shoot, and tonight, as is true more and more in Virginia, you'd be a fool to predict anything until you see lots of Fairfax returns. Stick with us and we'll get you what comes in as soon as it arrives.

Posted 7:19 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Reston, Va.: When's the earliest you think we'll start seeing some numbers? Anecdotally, I don't know anyone who voted for Terry.

Marc Fisher: Watch out for that kind of anecdotal info.

Right now, Deeds is over 50 percent, but that will change. These very early returns are from rural areas, such as two precincts in Alleghany County, where Deeds is winning 95 percent of the vote. (249 votes to 8 for McAuliffe and 4 for Moran.)

In the one precinct in Arlington that has reported so far, it's Deeds 147, Moran 101, McAuliffe 57.

Posted 7:21 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Arlington, Va.: I voted for Deeds in at Key Elementary in Arlington today. Was there around 3:30 p.m. and not another soul the entire time I was in there. The poll workers were sitting around reading.

I can say that The Post endorsement was a big factor in my decision to vote for Deeds. I was disgusted with the other two choices and had planned to sit this one out until I read the Post's compelling argument in favor of Deeds. I can also say that if Deeds wins the primary, I'll immediately donate to his campaign. If either of the others wins, I'm done. Sure I'll probably vote Democratic in the fall but I sure as hell won't give any time or money to the campaign.

Marc Fisher: Well, that's Deeds' argument--that he's the only one of the three who can beat Bob McDonnell. Of course, he lost to McDonnell for Attorney General, but that was one of the closest races in state history.

Posted 7:24 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Richmond, Va.: Marc,

Do you know where results will be posted?

Marc Fisher: Right here on the big web site. Or you can piece it together from the various state and county elections boards' web sites if you prefer.

Posted 7:24 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Burke, Va.: As a frequent contributor to The Post's discussions I am extremely disappointed in their support for Deeds and his agenda supporting Coal, GHG, and pollution into the Bay over Brian Moran who is against a Hampton roads Coal plant, and for a RES of 25 percent by 2025. Was it because of the large advertisements that Coal companies have been buying lately?

BTW, in Burke, Va., the polling station was a lovely church with coffee and snacks as good as any Starbucks. It's the best.

Marc Fisher: Oh please. Go on and disagree with The Post's editorial--goodness knows, I and most readers often do and things would be pretty dull if everyone agreed. But don't take the cheap road and blame it on some phantom like which cause happens to advertise. Editorial writers, like reporters, tend to be about as antagonistic toward their own employers' interests as they are toward any other institution. I don't know how the paper's editorial came to be--the news and editorial sides of the paper are strictly separate--but I do know that they make those choices according to the merits as they see them.

Posted 7:27 p.m., 6.9.2009

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San Francisco, Calif.: What has been the role and impact of technology (Web, text, e-mail, social networking, etc.) in this race for outreach, fundraising, awareness, etc.?

Marc Fisher: Certainly bigger than in previous Virginia state elections, but no bigger than in last year's presidential race. Mostly what we saw was the various campaigns trying to use some of the tools from the Obama toolbox--albeit at much cheaper rates. But given the tiny turnout relative to last year, a lot of the coolest moves the presidential campaigns made just couldn't be applied to this race.

However, watch for more of that stuff in the fall.

Posted 7:29 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Colonial Heights, Va.: Where is turnout the heaviest?

Marc Fisher: Not yet clear, but check this out: Henrico County--the close-in Richmond suburbs--already has 10 percent of its precincts reporting and Deeds is well ahead: Deeds 45 percent, McAuliffe 32 percent, Moran 22 percent.

Posted 7:31 p.m., 6.9.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Election night campaign party with Democratic candidate for governor Creigh Deeds, at the Omni Hotel in Charlottesville, Va. Caption: Virginia Democratic candidate for governor Creigh Deeds (right) with his wife, Pam Deeds, and campaign manager Joe Abbey (far left). Criegh Deeds talks with campaign manager in his hotel room in Charlottesville at 6:50 pm. (The Washington Post)

Posted 7:32 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Silver Spring, Md.: Looks like the earliest returns are from the smaller counties where Deeds is doing well Virginia State Board of Elections: Unofficial Democratic Primary Results

Marc Fisher: Yes, but some more urban numbers are starting to come in.

From Moran's hometown of Alexandria, with 26 percent of precincts reporting, the home boy is up, but not nearly as commandingly as his staff had been hoping for. Some of Moran's folks said earlier in the campaign that they needed to win overwhelmingly inside the Beltway, meaning upwards of two-thirds of the vote. Not happening so far in Alexandria:

Moran 54 percent
Deeds 33 percent
McAuliffe 13 percent

Posted 7:34 p.m., 6.9.2009

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McLean, Va.: Who do you think the very low turnout will help the most?

Marc Fisher: My thinking is a very low turnout hurts McAuliffe, whose strategy was based on producing an unusually high turnout for a state race.

But again, it depends on where that turnout comes from. Right now, here's Deeds just dominating in places outside the major urban centers. Here he is in Charlottesville, with 88 percent of the precincts reporting and a 10 percent turnout there:

Deeds 77 percent
Moran 14 percent
McAuliffe 9 percent


Posted 7:36 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Marc Fisher: Nats draft update, for those who care:

The Washington Nationals today selected Stanford University right-handed pitcher Drew Storen with the 10th overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.

Posted 7:37 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Ashburn, Va.: It still amazes me that the same people that don't vote are the ones most vocal about what they don't like in candidates and in politics. I voted around 11:15 this morning and was the 33rd voter at my polling place. Government isn't the politician in the office, it's us, the people. Let's all wake up, Virginia and America!!

Marc Fisher: True, but this way, you get to vote for a whole bunch of your neighbors. Here's my helpful tip for the evening: Go door to door and tell them that--then they'll have you to blame.

Posted 7:38 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Oldwick, N.J.: Thanks for doing this, Marc. My question is this: Should MaCauliffe lose tonight, do think this is the final verdict on the Clinton campaign machine that we've heard so much about? If he loses, is it the final indication that the Democratic Party has moved on from Clinton? They couldn't beat an upstart guy with a thin record in 2008, and now it's very possible that -- despite all the muscle the Clinton machine has put into this race -- their guy will lose the governorship. Thoughts?

Marc Fisher: I don't think so. First, McAuliffe is not Clinton. The ex-prez, despite his various, um, difficulties, is consistently very, very popular in polls, even among non-Democrats. Second, the verdict on McAuliffe, if indeed he is going down, is much more a statement about Virginia and its voters--both about the fact that despite their move toward Democrats, they remain very much a moderate bunch of voters, very suspicious of heavy-spending liberal Dems. And third, there remains a very strong sense of place in Virginia, something that someone who is perceived as an outsider runs into very quickly. McAuliffe always pooh-poohed that notion, but I think he did so at his own peril.

Posted 7:41 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Greenville, S.C.: Do you expect instant endorsements from the losers, assuming a clear cut winner?

Marc Fisher: Absolutely, unequivocally.

Posted 7:41 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Arlington, Va.: Realize it is a tiny, tiny sample, but Deeds is carrying the two Arlington precincts (Rosslyn being one) rather handily. while not in any way predictive, not good omens for McC or Moran if it holds

Marc Fisher: That has to be causing deeply furrowed brows in Moran-land.

Posted 7:41 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Broadlands, Va.: I was surprised at the number of Bob McDonnell signs at Hillside Elementary Polling place this morning -- probably 15 Bobs to every Terry, Brian and Creigh. If non-Dems aren't likely to vote, what's the purpose of spending $$ on signs instead of waiting and flooding TV and radio and my telephone in the fall?

Marc Fisher: McDonnell cannot win in the fall with just GOP support. He needs independents and some Dems too. So he has maintained a strong and continuous presence throughout the Democratic primary campaign. Smart move.

Posted 7:42 p.m., 6.9.2009

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South Riding, Va.: OK, I normally vote Republican, so I haven't been paying much attention to the Democratic primary. But, I am surprised that when compared to other elections when I get mail and phone calls on an almost daily basis that I didn't see anything. Are any of the candidates running in Northern Virginia?

Marc Fisher: All three governor candidates made big pushes in NoVa, and you will see vastly more of that from now to November.

Gonna take a 10 minute break in the action here folks, to glean some data and catch up on developments. Back here with you at the top of the 8 o'clock hour, and the numbers are starting to come in nicely, so we should be able to have some more detailed conversation in the next hour together. Please come on back....

Posted 7:44 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Marc Fisher: Welcome back. This is starting to look like not a very close race at all. With just over half the precincts in the state reporting, Creigh Deeds has more than 50 percent of the vote, with Terry McAuliffe at 26 percent and Brian Moran at 24 percent. Much of Northern Virginia's vote is still outstanding, but still....

Meanwhile, in Fairfax County, in the four-way race in the 35th House district, to replace Steve Shannon, who is running for state Attorney General, ex-Hill counsel Mark Keam is ahead with 10 percent of precincts reporting. Esam Omeish, the surgeon whose outspoken support of jihad against Israel has been a big controversy in the race, is running a distant second.

Posted 7:57 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Marc Fisher: In the 38th District in Fairfax, incumbent Democratic delegate Bob Hull is thus far holding off challenger Kaye Kory, a longtime member of the Fairfax school board. Very early returns there.

Posted 7:58 p.m., 6.9.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Virginia Governor Results (7:51 p.m. ET)

Posted 7:59 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Sterling, Va.: If Deeds is the primary winner, how do you think he'll fare against the Republican?

Marc Fisher: Deeds' argument all along, that as the most moderate candidate among the Democrats he is the best suited to take on the telegenic Bob McDonnell, will obviously be strengthened by a strong win in the primary, especially against an extremely well-funded McAuliffe. But the fact remains that McDonnell has beaten Deeds before, and that Deeds can seem a bit rough around the edges on the campaign trail--a little overeager, a little too legislator-y in his rhetoric.

Posted 8:00 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Blacksburg, Va.: Would you say right now the race should be called and declare that Creigh Deeds is the winner of this primary? He's already leading in 10 of the 11 Congressional Districts.

Marc Fisher: I don't think you'll see a responsible calling of the election until we see some more NoVa numbers, but it's certainly looking that way as this lead stays strong in almost every part of the state.

Posted 8:01 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Los Angeles, Calif.: What's going on in the Lt. Gov race?

Marc Fisher: Jody Wagner is trouncing Mike Signer by 73 percent to 21 percent with nearly 60 percent of the precincts reporting. That one you can call.

Posted 8:02 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Endorsement-ville: Just another data point that the Post endorsement of Deeds had a huge role in both my husband I deciding to vote for him. Of course, neither of us were really planning to vote in this primary until Saturday, when the umpteenth survey/robo-call finally got me online to do research. With limited time available to do any research, the Post's article was welcome analysis to the candidate's own pages.

Am I proud of the depth of analysis in making a voting choice? No. But at least I voted, and voted for all three races.

Marc Fisher: Sounds like you put as much or more thought into it as many other voters do. There's no obligation to do deep research--many voters look toward interest groups, single-issue organizations, news media, or trusted friends or family to help with these decisions. There's no one right way to pick a candidate.

Posted 8:04 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Call It: Marc,

The laws regulating the size of precincts mean that once you get to this size of precincts reporting with this much of a lead it is impossible to catch up.

Marc Fisher: Stand by--you're quite right.

Posted 8:05 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Marc Fisher: The Washington Post projects Creigh Deeds will be the Democratic candidate for governor.

Posted 8:05 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Potomac Falls, Va.: You discount GOP crossover voting as a factor in this Dem primary. I am a Republican who voted for Deeds, inspired by a dislike of McAuliffe. Don't you think a national name-brand like McAuliffe coming into a local race inspires antipathic cross-voting?

Marc Fisher: Maybe a little, but not nearly as much as he inspired intra-party anti-McAuliffe voting.

His campaign may end up being a contender for title of most dollars spent per vote.

Posted 8:06 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Marc Fisher: With two-thirds of the vote counted, McAuliffe has but 50,000 votes. That has to hurt. Deeds has about 100,000 and Moran 46,000.

Posted 8:07 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Kalispell, Mont.: Hey Mark,

While this race apparently hasn't grabbed the attention of many Virginia voters(or perhaps tried to grab a little too hard and alienated them), there are those across the county closely following today's race.

With the incredible change in polls over the last week, and the possibility that the close race tonight will be for second place, does this suggest a diminishing influence of national politics in local races?

McAuliffe pulled out all of the stops, including our (Montana's) governor Brian Schweitzer, and yet it looks like a distinct possibility that he may end up in 3rd place. Should those across the Potomac take note?

Marc Fisher: Those of us who love local and state politics are always cheered when voters make it clear that they want to make their decisions based on local issues, with local candidates, rejecting national appeals and nationally-based campaigns.

Posted 8:08 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Yorktown, Va.: If Deeds ends up winning the nomination, do you think he will find any sort of difficulty in reaching McAuliffe and Moran supporters?

Marc Fisher: Hard to imagine--as the most moderate or conservative of the three, it's not like the more liberal Dems are going to flip over to McDonnell. This now turns into a battle for the middle, for the independents who in recent Virginia elections have broken ever harder for the Democrats. So the question will be whether Deeds can refine his candidacy to compete with the generally well-liked McDonnell, and whether McDonnell can really sell the idea that he is much more moderate than his hard-conservative past would indicate.

Posted 8:10 p.m., 6.9.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Virginia Governor Election Results (8:05 p.m. ET) (AP)

Posted 8:12 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Arlington, Va.: I voted for Deeds. The WaPo endorsement really helped. I started doing the research this weekend and was disappointed that the WaPo did not have a quick guide the issues. I searched for a half an hour and did not find a quick rundown of the candidates and the issues.

Also, Deeds had a wikipedia page about his past stances. That really helped. The other two did not have similar pages.

Marc Fisher: We ran a series of news stories laying out the candidates' positions on various issues over the past week. But as the campaign progressed, it became clear that the policy differences among the three were not huge--yes, there are differences on guns, gays and some other hot-button issues, but on the real meat and potato issues of taxes, transportation and health care, not a whole lot of difference. So it really came down to questions of style, personality, presentation and electability.

Posted 8:14 p.m., 6.9.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Deeds Wins! (The Fix, 8:10 p.m. ET)

Posted 8:15 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Deeds Supporter in Arlington : Hey Marc,

I've been a Deeds supporter since Nov of 2008. It's amazing to see Deeds pull the upset. The Washington Post helped him in a huge way because voters then paid attention to him. Before the Post endorsement people didn't take the time to know him. But since then people took a second look. What do

Marc Fisher: That certainly seems to be the case in northern Virginia, where Deeds had a tiny and almost imperceptible presence until the Post endorsement came along. Both McAuliffe and Moran had very northern Virginia-centric strategies earlier on--Moran's based inside the Beltway, and McAuliffe's mainly outside the Beltway.

Posted 8:15 p.m., 6.9.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Deeds Completes Come-From-Behind Win in Gov. Race (Post)

Posted 8:17 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Ex-Virginian: Maybe Virginia should have its elections in an even number year like the rest of America (excluding N.J.). I really think after a really big presidential election that there is just simply voter fatique. And let's not even talk about the strange ruke that does not allow Governors to serve consecutive terms.

Marc Fisher: The one-term rule is something that seems destined to be with us for many years to come. Politicians love to rail against it up to the point when they might actually do something about it, and then they back away--mainly because of the rivalry for power between the legislature and the governor.

Posted 8:17 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Marc Fisher: The GOP is already hitting Deeds: Press release from the Republican Governors Association just popped, headlined, "Creigh Deeds: High Taxes, Unelectable."

It's lead point: Deeds has voted for increases in the gas tax. Of course, that same anti-tax campaign has bombed for Virginia Republicans several elections in a row, but these are tougher times than the last few election cycles.

Posted 8:19 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Arlington, Va.: Why did McAuliffe think he had a chance?

Marc Fisher: Powerful and often persuasive personal confidence. Root disdain for local politicians and state lawmakers (you know, people like, say, Barack Obama.) And living in McLean, he genuinely believed that he would pass for a Virginian, a point that hardly anyone who lives south of the Occoquan River would concede.

Posted 8:21 p.m., 6.9.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Photo: McAuliffe Visits Voters in Arlington

Posted 8:21 p.m., 6.9.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Brian Moran at a Synogogue in Alexandria

Posted 8:22 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Vienna, Va.: Hey Marc and thanks so much for this live column. To answer your question, after reading the state election returns web site, looks like it was Moran's to lose. I'm one of those native Virginians who viewed McAuliffe as a carpetbagger, but now, looks like he is the spoiler in the race.

I voted for Moran/Wagner/Kearn. I will support Deeds, but have my doubts that he will be able to defeat McDonnell in the fall.

Marc Fisher: I agree that from the start, this was Moran's to lose. He was obviously shaken by McAuliffe's entry into the race, and never really got back his confidence. I had a long dinner with Moran in which he seemed barely to know why he was running. Unlike most such interviews, where the likes of Mark Warner or Tim Kaine would have a clear sense of the message he wanted to get across to a reporter, Moran was almost passive. He let me set the agenda for the interview almost entirely. That same attitude came out in his public campaign.

So in the end, I don't buy the idea that McAuliffe was the spoiler, because Deeds' victory was so commanding that it's quite possible he could have won a two-way with Moran.

Posted 8:23 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Re: gas tax: Deeds' counter: it's the roads, stupid. I think if he runs on using gas tax money to fix the roads, it becomes a non-issue.

Marc Fisher: Maybe, but I don't think we'll get to see that debate--no way Deeds runs in the fall as a pro-higher gas tax candidate. At most, he'll leave himself an open door, but not straight out advocating for such an increase.

Posted 8:24 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Arlington again: True, there was very little difference in terms of the issues they ran on. And I did read all of the articles on the main WaPo election page. I should specify that I was looking more for what the WaPo endorsement gave me: a reasonable analysis of what these men are like and what they've done and what they could do. I understand that the WaPo can't do that on it's main page. But the candidates should've had a Wikipedia page that listed out what they've done and the stances they've taken in the past. Deeds had such a page and as opposed to a campaign Website, a wiki page gives you a quick run down without the gloss.

Marc Fisher: Interesting--I bet you'll see more of those in the fall campaign.

Posted 8:25 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Reston, Va: I voted for Deeds and Wagner at Terraset Elementary in Reston. The Post's endorsement was the main reason I went with Deeds, but I also have a hard time thinking that either Moran or McAuliffe could compete against a Republican outside of NoVa, Richmond, and Hampton Roads. Deeds, unlike Moran and McAuliffe, has the advantage of being a "born here" rather than a "come here." This will probably count for a whole lot in rural areas.

Marc Fisher: Virginia is indeed changing, and especially in the Washington area, there are many newcomers who don't share the traditional sense of Virginia as a distinctive political culture. But that character has not disappeared and it remains a political force especially in low turnout elections like this one.

Posted 8:26 p.m., 6.9.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Voters at Buzz Aldrin Elementary School in Reston (Earlier Today)

Posted 8:26 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Explain It: Marc, would you explain the laws of size of precinct and why "we" know that defeat is a mathematical impossibility, even with these low turnouts?

Marc Fisher: Precincts are not all the same size, but they're close enough that at a certain point in the count, the number of outstanding votes is just not enough to alter the outcome.

Deeds' win is so convincing across regions of the state that an early call was easy. Here, courtesy of Post pollster Jon Cohen, is a very revealing regional breakdown of the vote, as it stands with 78 percent counted:

Deeds McAuliffe Moran
D.C. suburbs 45 17 25
Nova exurbs 51 30 19
Central/Western 69 22 9
Richmond/East 49 28 24
Tidewater 42 36 22

Deeds isn't behind in any region of the state. Most impressively, he's faring better in the Washington suburbs than in Tidewater! And most painfully for McAuliffe, his worst performance of all came where folks know him best--at home.

Loudoun/PW 45 30 24

Posted 8:30 p.m., 6.9.2009

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NoVa: If you can comment on the Deeds-McDonnell race: as unemployment stays high outside the Northern Virginia area, what impact will those third-party ads citing McDonnell's position against extending jobless benefits have?

Marc Fisher: The Democrats seem to think that's a real winner for them, and the GOP seems quite sensitive to the idea. The quickest and most vituperative exchanges of the primary season came on that issue--watch for a lot more of that.

My sense is that this will get pretty personal, because McDonnell's camp believes that their guy is the better, more likeable, more accessible personality, and Deeds' folks will want to demonstrate that McDonnell isn't nearly as moderate as he makes himself out to be.

Posted 8:32 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Arlington, Va.: What role will Northern Virginia have in the general election?

Marc Fisher: Huge. Quite possibly determinative. Not just because it could be 40 percent of the vote, but because neither of the candidates has a natural purchase on NoVa and both will have to fight hard here, and will have to do so facing the reality that TV is just too dang expensive here.

Posted 8:33 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Arlington, Va.: What's happening in House District 47?

Marc Fisher: With all the votes counted, Patrick Hope has won with 37 percent of the vote in a five-way race. Pretty impressive victory with so many contenders.

Posted 8:36 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Arlington, Va.: It should be an interesting race in the fall with McDonnell from NOVA and Deeds from the rural parts. What's your take on the fall in terms of interests. All of Terry's volunteers must be heartbroken. Can Deeds raise as much money? I think he can because he will have the whole DNC behind him. He also has Warner, Kaine, and Webb.

Marc Fisher: Deeds won't have the instant access to national funding sources that McAuliffe had, but this election is very important to the party and to Tim Kaine, who obviously has some pretty good connections too. So you will see both parties pump heavy resources into Virginia the rest of the way, along with lots of outside groups.

Posted 8:37 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Arlington, Va.: Will Barack Obama play a role in the general election?

Marc Fisher: Indeed, the White House is already talking about taking a visible role in supporting Deeds, and you should start to see some of that in the coming days.

Posted 8:38 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Arlington, Va.: This Democratic voter won't be voting for Deeds in the fall. He's a liberal Republican and I see no point in voting for him. If a third party candidate that supports civil rights for all runs, I'll work and vote for that person. Deeds's current stance on issues is a huge step backward for the state of Va.

Marc Fisher: A liberal Republican? Actually, pretty much the converse of that--he's much more a conservative Democrat. He's tougher on some social issues than most liberal Democrats, but fiscally he seems much more aligned with the Dems. He's probably more analogous to Jim Webb and Mark Warner than to Tim Kaine or Brian Moran.

Posted 8:40 p.m., 6.9.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Photo: Coverage of election night campaign party for Virginia Democratic governor candidate Brain Moran.--- Brian Moran hugs his daughter McClain after his concession speech.

Posted 8:41 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Alexandria, Va.: What will the issues be in the Lt. Gov and Attorney General races?

Marc Fisher: The lieutenant governor race is likely to be overshadowed by the governor's contest, and very much deferential to it. But the AG race could be a real doozy. It's an all-northern Virginia affair, pitting unapologetic social conservative Sen. Ken Cuccinelli against classically NoVa liberal Del. Steve Shannon. This is where the Democrats will likely try to paint the whole GOP ticket as unremittingly hardcore conservative on issues such as abortion. If the Democrats succeed in portraying McDonnell as indistinguishable from Cuccinelli, the D's win. But McDonnell's not going to let that happen without a big and probably fairly effective fight.

Posted 8:43 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Norfolk, Va.: How much, per vote, do you think McAuliffe spent?

Marc Fisher: Very, very rough numbers, but consider that McCain and Obama each spent less than $10 a vote in their races--it looks like McAuliffe will have spent something on the order of $100 per vote. That's a lot of moola.

Posted 8:45 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Vienna, Va.: Is it too early to call the 35th District race for Mark Keam?

Marc Fisher: Looks like an easy call: With about two-thirds of the vote in, Keam has upwards of four times as many votes as any of his three opponents. Is that Fairfax House race another instance of the Post endorsement making the difference?

Posted 8:47 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Arlington, Va.: I live in Arlington and Deeds was off my radar until the Post endorsement. That endorsement was perhaps better than a thousand lawn signs, especially since its seems he didn't have enough money to advertise in this part of the state. What would have been his strategy -- and hope of winning -- in NoVA without the Post's support?

Marc Fisher: No hope of winning in this region. Right now, it looks like Brian Moran is pulling just 36 percent of the northern Virginia vote--that's about half of what he at one point hoped for and thought might be a necessary margin in order to win statewide.

Posted 8:48 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Centreville, Va.: I have never voted Republican, not once, in my life. But it says something about Virginia politics that I am considering voting for a Northern Virginia Republican over a Southwest Virginian Democrat. What can Deeds do to reassure his "base" that he is not out of touch with the majority of the state's population/income in terms of infrastructure, funding and the like?

Marc Fisher: And who is that northern Virginia Republican? Do you count McDonnell because he spent his childhood in Fairfax? Certainly, his campaign is presenting him as a NoVa native, but all of his adult life has been spent in Hampton Roads and Richmond. Does that make a difference to voters in the D.C. suburbs? Probably not nearly as much as who he is and what he stands for. After all, Tim Kaine was as dominant here as Mark Warner and they hail from completely different parts of Virginia.

Posted 8:50 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Alexandria, Va.: I've lived in Northern Virginia for 30+ years after moving up from the Tidewater, and this was Creigh Deeds primary to lose. I viewed McAuliffe as a somewhat arrogant carpetbagger who thought he could throw a lot of money in the race and it would be a simple matter to win. Brian Moran hardly registered in the race, and he should have been a shoe-in here in NoVa. Creeds at least seemed to project a bit of sensibility, coming from the second least populated county in the state, and seemed to me the best positioned to understand the various regions of the state when it comes time to make things happen in Richmond. I'm sure he, if he isn't already, will be a fast learner with regards to Northern Virginia issues. Very happy to see him win.

Marc Fisher: Deeds spent a lot of time in NoVa, sleeping at a buddy's house in Herndon. He knows the area quite well, though he never had the local political connections that Moran had. But that emphasis on local officials' support seems to have made little if any difference for Moran.

Posted 8:51 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Reston, Va.: Can we expect Bob McDonnell to run a "culture wars"-type campaign? This article from the Regent University Web site suggests that he might: Commonwealth Conservative (Christian Leader)

Marc Fisher: To the contrary, McDonnell is running as far away from that culture wars emphasis as he can--he knows he cannot win as a hard-core, unbending social conservative, so he's doing a remake as a moderate. Whether he can persuade voters of that transformation will likely be a huge factor in determining the outcome in November.

Posted 8:52 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Arlington, Va.: How does it feel to be an employee of the Washington Post and thus THE powerbroker for the 2009 Virginia primary?

Marc Fisher: For whatever it's worth, it's fair to say that there is a vastly, vastly diminished sense of cockiness in the news industry these days--even if a newspaper endorsement ends up being seen as a key factor in tonight's outcome.

Posted 8:53 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Winchester, Va.: I really appreciated the well-reasoned endorsement by the Post of Deeds. I agree, there wasn't much to distinguish between the three excellent candidates, but hearing from the editorial that Deeds made the difficult political choices but the right ones (or at least the ones I agree with), made me decide. I also liked reading the three discussions with the candidates, although, again, didn't see much difference.

Marc Fisher: Despite my previous comment, I'd be less than honest if I said that it isn't cheering to know that newspapers still matter to lots of readers.

Posted 8:54 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Fauquier County: The Post's endorsement of Deeds made for two more votes from this family -- and not just because it was the Post speaking. The Post did a better job of articulating Deeds's position than he did.

Marc Fisher: Ha! I'm sure Sen. Deeds is just thrilled to hear that.

Posted 8:55 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Ballston Obama Boy: In my opinion, turnout is low this year -- even in 47th delegate's race -- because none of the candidates have really been able to differentiate themselves as vastly higher quality than the rest of the pack. Last year, independents and even republicans were pouring out of the woodworks in Arlington to support Obama.

This year, however, our gubernatorial candidates have had as liabilities perceptions: of carpetbagging, leaning far to the right of your average Democrat (cf. fence-jumping but clearly "electable" Sen. Webb), and standing in the shadow of (without criticizing) a less-than-virtuous political family member. Not the kind of candidates which inspire us to vote on high ideals.

Meanwhile, in our 47th, there were just too many candidates with too few outstanding traits to anyone who is not a Democratic Party wonk or political hobbyest to make an easily informed decision. (Your paper's sparse reporting didn't help much in this regard either.)

So, what the heck -- until we have more young Obamas and Warners emerge on the playing field, I don't expect to see anything like the last few primaries for awhile. Too bad.

You agree?

Marc Fisher: It's not really fair to compare a low-turnout, low-interest state House race to the phenom of Barack Obama. Even a governor's race in a rare primary doesn't quite rise to the same level. That said, I've heard lots of voters express the same grumbling about the quality of the candidates this go-round. This is one problem with one-term governors--you need a new crop of candidates every four years, and the system doesn't necessarily produce bumper crops that often.

Posted 8:57 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Arlington, Va.: You stated a few minutes ago that Deeds would have no chance of winning NoVA without the Post's endorsement. Is it fair to say that without The Post's aggressive campaigning Deeds would have ended up in third place, as many polls before the endorsement suggested he would?

Marc Fisher: No, I don't see how you could conclude that Deeds would have come in third. His very strong showing statewide cannot in any way be credited to the endorsement of a paper that is widely circulated only in one region of the state.

Posted 8:58 p.m., 6.9.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Election Results, County-by-County: Governor, Virginia, Democratic Primary

Posted 9:00 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Anonymous: Deeds ran against McDonnell for AG and it was extremely close. I think you criticized Deeds for running a very uninspired race. (If I'm wrong about that, please let me know.) What does Deeds need to do to pick up those additional votes?

Thanks.

Marc Fisher: Deeds is not a classically charismatic or persuasive candidate, but he's high energy and very smart and he comes off as committed, likeable and knowledgeable. There's something slightly ADHD in his manner--the rapid-fire talk, the waves of facts, the mind racing ahead of the mouth. But I rarely run into people who don't like him.

McDonnell seems more polished, smoother, also very well-informed. But there are real and deep policy differences between them. Whether the fall campaign will center on those or on personalities remains to be seen.

Posted 9:01 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Arlington, Va.: As a political scientist, I can say newspaper endorsements are USUALLY overrated. Not here, though. People LOATHED Terry McAuliffe, but weren't sure Moran could take McAuliffe down and didn't know Deeds. They were afraid McDonnell would blow out McAuliffe or Moran. The Post made it OK to vote for Deeds, made the case for someone who wasn't even contesting Northern Virginia. That caused the large anti-McAuliffe vote to stampede toward Deeds. And there you go.

Marc Fisher: That's fairly persuasive, but only for the NoVa vote--it doesn't explain Deeds' powerful victory all around the rest of Virginia.

Posted 9:01 p.m., 6.9.2009

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Marc Fisher: That has to kick things in the head for tonight. Lots more coming in the morning paper and all over the big web site. Thanks for spending your early evening with me here and watch for more special editions of Potomac Confidential around big news events in the coming weeks and months.

Have a splendid night, everyone.

Posted 9:02 p.m., 6.9.2009

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washingtonpost.com: Photo: L to R Rep. Jim Moran (brother of candidate) Brian (son) McClain (daughter) Karyn (wife) as Brian Moran gives his concession speech.

Posted 9:03 p.m., 6.9.2009

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