The State Houses – What’s At Stake in 2010

Thirty-nine states will be electing a governor during the 2009-2010 election cycle. Of these, eighteen races will not include an incumbent and four incumbents who will be running were not elected to their current position. The recession and huge budget deficits threaten to undercut the power of incumbency for governors running for reelection.

The Current Line-Up

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Sep
17

Deeds vs. McDonnell, Round II – A NoVa Debate Primer

By · Sep, 17 2009

As gubernatorial candidates Creigh Deeds (D) and Bob McDonnell (R) prepare for their second general election debate today in front of Northern Virginia business leaders, the Washington Post provides five questions central to the campaign as it enters the home stretch and the candidates vie for an edge among NoVa voters.  Deeds trails in all polls and heads into today’s debate with more unanswered questions confronting his campaign than McDonnell does.

Deeds’ path to victory lies in racking up impressive margins in the populous, prosperous and politically moderate (by Virginia standards, at least) DC suburbs and exurbs. Polls show him leading in the region, but not by enough to win statewide. His ability to convince voters in the region to support his candidacy could hinge on how well he addresses their concerns in tonight’s debate.

As has been true for decades, traffic congestion (and how to alleviate the arduous commutes in the region) are at the top of voters’ concerns. McDonnell has presented a plan (with questionable financing that Democrats claim will hurt education and public safety) while Deeds merely promises a long-term solution delivered during his first year in office. Will voters be impressed by either? Deeds’ failure to provide any details on how he envisions to tackle this critical quality of life issue could seriously undermine his ability to win over traffic-weary NoVa voters.

The WaPo’s next two questions concern the “nationalization” of Virginia politics in a post-presidential year campaign. A central theme of the McDonnell campaign has been to tap into voter unease over the expansion of the federal government while Deeds has pinned his hope on McDonnell’s conservative views on social issues as expressed in the Republicans now-famous Regents University master’s thesis.

Will Deeds’ response that the debate over healthcare, labor policy and climate change are federal concerns and are extraneous to the governor’s portfolio be sufficient? Will McDonnell be successful in dismissing the “extremist” charges?

Deeds risks looking like he’s ducking tough issues if he fails to state his positions. Asking people to vote for you without taking stands on important issues (even if the office you’re running for will have little say on those issues) doesn’t inspire confidence. McDonnell’s task may be tougher – refuting your own words, even when they’re two decades old risks alienating conservatives and may do little to convince critical moderates your positions have evolved.

Perhaps Deeds’ biggest challenge is convincing the urban and suburban voters of the DC metro area that, despite his rural southern roots, he has their interests at heart.

The WaPo’s last question presents a challenge to both candidates. As Virginia confronts the most serious budget crisis in recent memory, how will they deliver on their campaign promises?

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Categories : Debates, Open Seats, Virginia

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