The biggest tactical error of the year for the 2009 elections was Creigh Deeds' over emphasis on Bob McDonnell's thesis.
By the end of September it was clear to us that his attacks were not having a meaningful impact. Among voters who had made up their minds during that month Deeds was leading only 35-32, not nearly enough to bridge his gap against McDonnell. At the same time his favorability rating had declined from 47/35 to 43/42, an indication that he was hurting himself about as much as he was hurting McDonnell.
It was time for a change of course at that point, but it didn't come. McDonnell probably would have won no matter what Deeds did but his continued hammering on the thesis that most voters didn't really care about- while simultaneously failing to establish a positive rationale for supporting him- resulted in yesterday's extremely lopsided margin.
Consider these data points:
-59% of voters thought Deeds ran a mostly negative campaign
-Only 34% thought Deeds made a strong affirmative case for why he should be elected.
-Our first general election poll, in July, found McDonnell's favorability rating at 51/32. It ended at 55/35, virtually no change in the spread. Deeds on the other hand started at 48/29 and ended at 39/45, a 25 point shift in the wrong direction. He ran the negative campaign but for the most part the only negatives he drove up were his own.
-Finally his campaign choices completely deenergized the Democratic base. 36% of his voters were 'not very excited' about casting their ballots this year while only 31% were 'very excited.' Contrast that to 61% of McDonnell's voters who were very excited.
His inability to give Democratic voters a reason to vote for him resulted in a gradual decline in the number of Democrats planning to vote, and that's what resulted in the final staggering 18 point margin.