The Deeds Campaign and Rovian Politics

In recent weeks the Creigh Deeds campaign has pinpointed its focus upon Bob McDonnell’s controversial college thesis – “The Republican Party’s Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of The Decade.” Polls indicate that the effort has bore some fruit, though the Republican nominee still leads.

This strategy by Virginia Democrats brings concern to me, because it smacks as something straight out of Karl Rove’s playbook. Democrats have long railed against politics of personal destruction: elections ought to be about issues, not personality. Yet today Creigh Deeds is waging a campaign against his opponent’s character, not the issues Mr. McDonnell is behind.

Personally, I think that character-based voting gets a worse rap than it deserves. Richard Nixon, for instance, may have been right on all the issues – but he still shouldn’t have been president, because he was a paranoid racist. Barack Obama’s steadiness during the fall economic crisis appealed to many voters – an appeal based on personality, not issues.

Nevertheless, it is striking to witness how McDonnell is defending himself. For example, he states

For the last month, my opponent seems to have been making social issues the focus of the campaign. Senator Deeds continues to focus on divisive social issues. He runs a backwards looking campaign focused on former presidents, former governors and two decades old term papers.

If I hadn’t known better, I’d have sworn that those words came out of a Democrat’s mouth.

Indeed, McDonnell’s statement recalls what Democrats attacked as too socially liberal have been saying for election after election. Politicians can talk about abortion and gay marriage all they want; they can fight the culture wars again and again. But arguing about abortion is not going to improve the economy, strengthen national security, or reform health care. The only thing it’s going to do is distract the nation.

I’d still vote for Deeds if I lived in Virginia (which I don’t). He’s the Democratic candidate – not my type of Democrat, but a Democrat nonetheless. It’s just goes against my grain to watch a Republican Democrat attempt to win through the politics of personal destruction, because he knows he’ll lose any other way.

This entry was posted in 2009 Gubernatorial Elections, Election Analysis, Virginia and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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