Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Some lessons from the Virginia results...

-It's good to be patient. When one campaign has a lot more money than the others, as was the case with Terry McAuliffe in this race, there is a definite temptation when you're lagging in the polls to go ahead and start spending that two, three months out from an election to keep from getting too far behind. But Creigh Deeds' campaign kept its eyes on the big picture- that most voters weren't paying attention to the race or making up their minds- and waited to spend all of their money on media in May and June. Clearly that was the right choice- going on the air in Hampton Roads in January didn't really pay any long term dividends for McAuliffe.

-At the same time you shouldn't wait too long. It's gotten lost in all of the hype about the Washington Post endorsement, which undoubtedly did make a difference, but Deeds was already gaining on the field in mid-May. After going on tv the first week of the month he cut McAuliffe's lead over him from 16 points to 9, and tied up Brian Moran after lagging in third place in every poll from January on. He had already made himself into the momentum candidate, and the WaPo endorsement then helped him build on that further. But it's a puzzle why Moran waited so much longer to go on tv than Deeds, because by the time he did he had sort of become the forgotten candidate in the race.

-The decision to spend more money on television ads, particularly in Washington DC, than on field in the closing weeks clearly paid off for Deeds. You have to wonder how much of the work McAuliffe and Moran did getting out the vote actually resulted in reminding people they needed to go vote- for Deeds. But GOTV is going to be huge this fall, particularly with black voters. They never got that interested in this primary and Deeds did worse with them than he did with most voter blocs but their votes will be crucial to defeating Bob McDonnell.

One other note. I am very impressed with the Virginia blogosphere. Lots of informed commentary and I don't think I ever saw someone bash a poll just because they didn't like the results of it. We poll all over the country and what I read in Va. conveyed much more depth of knowledge than in most places.

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