Political fight fans: With the Richmond governor's mansion at stake, the bout between State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) and former attorney general Robert F. McDonnell (R) has top billing in the nation in this off-year election. Shamelessly straining the boxing metaphor, I'm considering each week a "round" in the title fight. On Thursdays from now until the election, I declare a winner for the round. Some weeks, there might be a draw. But I doubt it.

Date The Breakdown
Oct. 22 - Oct. 29
The Washington Post's last poll before Election Day shows McDonnell with his biggest lead yet, 11 points, and no sign of flagging. Obama campaigns with Deeds in Norfolk, but 7 in 10 likely voters said their view of Obama wouldn't affect their vote. With this result, McDonnell's won six out of nine rounds on this scorecard, going back to late August. But remember: The only referee that matters is the electorate. No matter which brawler you prefer, get out and vote!
Oct. 15 - Oct. 21
Deeds takes the round on points. He receives a ringing endorsement from The Washington Post's editorial page, and early enough to use it in television ads. Deeds also gets Obama to commit to campaign with him again, despite White House grumbling that he's run a poor campaign. All this help might well come too late for the Democrat, who's been well behind in the polls and didn't land any big blows in the fourth and final debate.
Oct. 9 - Oct. 14
The campaign turns static with McDonnell holding the lead. Deeds does better than expected in the first prime-time television debate, but expectations were low and he didn't do anything to turn it around. Deeds is still waiting for Obama to schedule a another event with him in Virginia -- and the delay is highlighted when White House says the president will campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Corzine in New Jersey.
Oct. 1 - Oct. 8
New Post poll shows McDonnell widens lead to 9 percentage points among likely voters, compared to a 4-point margin in late September. Result suggests Deeds no longer is getting as much benefit as before from the controversy over McDonnell's 1989 master's thesis. To try to turn it around, Deeds will need to find something new to say at the first prime-time debate, at 8 p.m. Monday in Richmond.
Sept. 24 - Sept. 30
It was a slow week with both candidates busy raising money before a Wednesday deadline, and I was tempted to declare a draw. But McDonnell wins by a hair, as it emerges that his side is putting out more advertising, partly because of support from outside groups such as the Republican Governors Association. The Republican also steadily picked up endorsements, including that of the Northern Virginia Technology Council. (Deeds got the Police Benevolent Association.) The latest polls aren't statistically reliable, but for what it's worth, they all still have McDonnell in the lead.
Sept. 18 - Sept. 23
Deeds bounces back, as a Washington Post Poll shows he's dramatically closed the gap with McDonnell. The latter's thesis dismayed many Northern Virginia women voters. (The poll actually was conducted in Week 3, but results issued Sunday gave the Democrat some needed momentum.) Deeds also cleared up some of the muddle regarding his position on transportation, and President Obama pressed former Virginia governor Doug Wilder to endorse him (though the latter ultimately declined.
Sept. 10 - Sept. 17
McDonnell wins the Fairfax debate and thus the week. Deeds flails feebly trying to explain how he won't raise taxes -- oh, except for transportation. He lands some jabs on McDonnell over the thesis and the Republican's record on the state's opportunity fund and the 2004 budget deal. McDonnell looks poised and sharp -- critics would say scripted and insincere -- but continues to keep the Democrat on the defensive on national issues.
Sept. 3 - Sept. 9
McDonnell wins narrowly on points, mainly because he slowly continued to claw his way out of the thesis-gate controversy. He and other GOP speakers stayed firmly on message at the Buena Vista parade: no cap-and-trade, no union card check, no big government. Deeds keeps talking about continuing the Warner-Kaine legacy. Will that be enough?
Aug. 27 - Sept. 2
Deeds wins the first round without throwing a punch. McDonnell has been on the ropes all week after The Post unearthed his 1989 master's degree thesis endorsing right-wing social views sure to worry vital, moderate swing voters. McDonnell says many of his views have changed, that it's old news and a dirty trick by Deeds. The Democrats have lots of new material for attack ads. How hard will the GOP right push McDonnell to reaffirm some of his past stances?

Local columnist Robert McCartney takes a hard-hitting look at issues in the Washington region. Read his columns »

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