By Paul Goldman
Given the holiday spirit, the time has come to let Creigh Deeds come in from the cold. Whatever the failings of the Deeds for Governor campaign and the candidate, the 2009-2010 period seems a political body double for the 1993-1994 time frame. Back then, George Allen, a huge underdog going into the summer, ended up a landslide winner. 12 months later, the GOP won over 50 House seats in the Congressional elections, putting the country in the temporary grips of Newt Gingrich’s certifiable megalomania [Republicans also won control of the Senate].
Last year, Senator Deeds, who had lost the closest statewide election in Virginia history to Bob McDonnell in their race for Attorney General, was like Mary Sue Terry, ahead in the polls as summer arrived. But it wasn’t long before his fortunes, along with that of other Democrats, started down a very slippery political slope. The slide got moving fast with a wipeout of the 2009 state ticket, and then, 12 months later, had accelerated to Republicans winning more congressional seats than at any time since 1938 [the GOP might have won the Senate too if they hadn’t nominated some of the least qualified individuals ever.]
The times, as Mr. Dylan might have said, were achangin’, only the full extent of the political earthquake wasn’t clear with those first early summer rumblings. But what was first dismissed as some polling “noise” soon grew louder and louder until it could be identified as the wheels of a coming train wreck. Could Deeds and Mary Sue Terry actually have won in 2009 and 1993 respectively? Of course, the polls said they could: but it would have also required a much more creative and daring mind set than they or their advisors possessed or ever so claimed. Deeds and Terry were very conventional thinkers and they surrounded themselves with the same at the precisely the wrong time: both camps underestimated their opponents and overestimated their own abilities.
In that regard, I stick to my general rule: campaign wise, it is usually easier to be seen as running a smart campaign when you are pushing an underdog who gains any kind of traction. Thus, an underdog who say gets 47% is usually seen as running a kick ass campaign – gee, he/she almost did it – while the winner gets little credit for the 53% – they almost blew a sure thing. It is the nature of the public relations business.
But the reality is something different: to a very large degree, events are in the saddle and they ride mankind as Emerson said, meaning most campaigns go with the flow and get carried with the tide even though they seem to proactive. When a huge political Tsunami is therefore hitting, very few campaigns are ready to accept reality, think outside the proverbial box, much less dare throw the Hail Mary until it is already far too late.
If anyone thinks Brian Moran or Terry McAuliffe would have even come close to winning, then they probably think Sarah Palin has a chance to be the next President.
Had Terry run in 1989, or Deeds in 2005 for Governor, the campaigns they ran, the campaigns they were comfortable with running, would have won in my judgment. Thanks to the Supreme Court decision on abortion, Doug Wilder was able to win a race that he would have otherwise lost by 10% all other things being equal. In 2005, Governor Mark Warner was strong enough to have carried Deeds over the finish line.
But 1993-1994 turned out to be a killing field for Democrats, we forget that Ollie North was probably the only Republican in Virginia that year who couldn’t beat Chuck Robb, much like Sharon Angle was probably the only GOP contender Harry Reid could beat in Nevada in the 2009-2010 period. Such is politics.
Simply put: Creigh Deeds has suffered enough. He lost, but it wasn’t a case of losing as a favorite: given the terrain, he was going uphill. We need to let him come in from the cold.
2011 is a new year and in Virginia, this means a new election season. Senator Deeds can help the party get back on track and so let’s all resolve to put the past behind us, and move forward together, this is usually a good strategy when your platoon has taken as many casualties as we have.