Thursday, August 6, 2009

In defense of Deeds Country

So let's say we're looking at an electorate of 2,000,000 voters in Virginia this year. With Bob McDonnell leading 51-37 that puts him at 1,020,000 and Creigh Deeds at 740,000 with 240,000 undecided. Let's go ahead and give two thirds of the undecideds to Deeds (since proportionally two thirds of them approve of Barack Obama's job performance). That puts McDonnell at 1.1 million votes and Deeds at 900,000 as of today.

There are two ways for Deeds to make up that gap. Convince folks who aren't currently planning to turn out to do so, or get folks currently planning to vote for McDonnell to change their minds.

Barack Obama's support is surely going to help Deeds on that first front, but it's asking an awful lot for his star power to bring out an extra 200,000 Democratic voters.

That means Deeds has to win over a decent number of folks planning to vote for McDonnell who are going to vote, whoever they vote for. That means he needs to get the votes of folks who don't like what Barack Obama's doing as President. And it seems like the most logical group of Obama disapproving potential supporters are those in his part of the state- 'Deeds Country'- where he's been touring in the last week. He can speak to those voters as one of them, and hope that common regional background can help overcome their conservative leanings or distrust of the President.

If you convince folks who aren't inclined to vote to come out and support you you're at +1 in making up that 200,000 voter gap. If you can convince folks who are definitely going to turn out but are currently planning to vote for McDonnell you're at +2 in making up that 200,000 voter gap because you're subtracting one from his column while adding one to yours.

Right now Deeds is trailing 52-35 among likely voters who have a positive opinion of both him and McDonnell- and those folks live disproportionately in Deeds Country. If this is going to be a Republican electorate he needs to turn that number among the candidates' mutual admirers on its head. There's no doubt he has work to do shoring up the base in more populous, more Democratic parts of the state but if he doesn't make more in roads with conservative leaning independents and some Republicans in his part of the state, increasing enthusiasm for himself in NoVa and Tidewater isn't going to be enough.

So was this tour worth a week of his time three months out from the election? I'm inclined to think yes if it helps to counteract the problems I've outlined here.


Anonymous said...


Perry-Hutchinson or Rubio-Crist

Anonymous said...

How about WAshington state, Oregon, Massachusetts, or Iowa?

Jayant Reddy said...

I must beg to differ, Tom, on Deeds country being the most fertile ground to turn McDonnell voters, or that turning McDonnell voters should be given priority over engaging the base.

Your most recent poll produced a likely voter turnout model that shows unnaturally depressed liberal turnout compared to a normal non-Presidential year Virginia election. So the base vote is a big issue, both concerning black voters and white liberals.

And turning McDonnell voters, even independents, in rural Virginia is simply harder than turning those voters in NoVA or Hampton Roads because the rural white voters, even independents, are more conservative and less elastic in their voting behavior than culturally liberal/moderate suburbanites who still favor Republicans when they're most concerned about their pocketbooks.

I live in McLean, and Ben Tribbett of, one of the more knowledgeable Democratic activists in NoVA, pointed out recently that rich whites in my Virginia House district, HD-34, have been moving toward McDonnell and that it's hurting incumbent Democratic freshman Del. Margi Vanderhye. These are voters who normally vote for Democrats, but they're still very elastic depending on the year and the issue basket in play.

Ultimately Deeds' chances require pulling in the requisite margins in NoVA and in black precincts downstate, and holding his own as he did 4 years ago elsewhere. And your poll showing just 51-44 in the 703 area code, which is VERY liberal and excludes some moderate/conservative NoVA exurbs, doesn't cut it. Deeds needs 60-40 or very close to it in NoVA.

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