Deeds and Obama: He Loves Him, He Loves Him Not

As of mid-September, Democrat Creigh Deeds wouldn’t identify himself as an “Obama Democrat,” even when the questioner was moderator Dave Gregory at a gubernatorial debate.

“I like Barack Obama personally,” responded Deeds, who is running for governor of Virginia against conservative Bob McDonnell. “He’s a smart guy, he’s an innovative guy.”

But he still labeled himself a “Creigh Deeds” Democrat.

Then, Deeds said in an interview last week that what’s going on in Washington has hurt his standing with Virginia voters, though he also said he doesn’t think Obama’s getting enough credit for the ‘good’ signs emerging in the economy (this was, of course, pre-Nobel Prize award).

“We had a very tough August because people were just uncomfortable with the spending; they were uncomfortable with a lot of what was going on, a lot of the noise that was coming out of Washington, D.C,” Deeds said in an ABC 7/WJLA-TV and Politico interview.

Now, however, it’s all about love and peace between Washington and Deeds.  The Washington Post’s Virginia Politics blog reported Deeds said Obama will be back in Virginia before voters go to the polls.

Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore said he would not want Obama campaigning for him in the state if he were in Deeds’ position, but that Deeds’ only hope may be to draw more left-wing voters to the polls.

“I think that he has not excited his base vote very much, and so as a result, he’s behind,” Gilmore said. “Obama could excite that vote…I don’t know what else he’s got.”

No one else confirmed the president’s appearance in Virginia yet, but no worries — Deeds’ senior adviser has assured that Vice President Joe Biden (whose expertise on foreign policy overqualified him for a Nobel) is available whenever Deeds needed him.  Biden has already attended two fundraisers for Deeds, one as recently as October 8.

Whether you vote in Virginia or Alaska, the story is relevant because the Virginia gubernatorial race is one of the first following the major 2008 election and thus indicative of larger, national trends — and the fact that Deeds is pulling petals off daisies when it comes to affiliating himself with Obama’s tenure in the Oval Office shows Democrats won’t have an easy victory in 2010.  

Gilmore thinks Deeds’ indecisiveness on this love me-love me not relationship with Washington is damaging to the campaign.

“He wishes that a popular president could come in and rescue this for him,” Gilmore said.  “But on the other hand, it’s Barack Obama’s unpopularity that is causing him the problems in the first place.  So, he’s got a problem.  And he wants to be loyal to Barack Obama, but Obama’s policies are not being accepted in the state of Virginia.”

A Rasmussen poll from Sept. 30 showed Obama had a 52% approval rating among Virginians, but that 51% oppose the president and Congress’ health care plan. Also, 46% of Virginians think the economy is doing poorly, compared to 12% who think it’s good or excellent. A Washington Post poll released Friday showed that voters thought McDonnell had could better handle jobs, transportation issues, and taxes.

Gilmore said the reason why Washington’s policies are negatively affecting Deeds is because Deeds lacks a positive message.

“His positive message is, ‘I’m just like Mark Warner.’ That’s it, that’s really the only thing he has to say,” Gilmore said of Deeds. “That means that the national mood and the national program is going to have more of a bearing on him than it would be if he had a real positive message, and he doesn’t have one.”