Sunday, November 01, 2009

Democrats, Over Easy

Unless one wants to blow off a heap of opinion polls, it appears likely Democrats in Virginia are going to get a real thumping on Tuesday.

It would be easy to dwell on what a disappointment Creigh Deeds’ campaign has been, with its awkwardness and rather negative-toned strategy. The professional political experts in that camp should loose their credentials and get another line of work.

It would be easy to point a finger at the leadership in Virginia's Democratic Party and blame it for dropping the ball, after statewide victories in 2005 (Gov. Tim Kaine), 2006 (Sen. Jim Webb) and 2008 (Sen. Mark Warner).

If I wanted to shift the blame out of state it would be easy enough to throw dead cats at President Barack Obama’s steady dip in popularity in recent months. Easy to blame the backdrop of the contentious healthcare reform debate for making plenty of Democratic politicians look somewhat foolish and weak, coast-to-coast.

No, this piece isn’t about all that obvious stuff. It's about something below the surface. It’s about how that word “easy” has become a problem for too many voters who generally vote Democratic, if they vote.

In 2005 Warner’s crazy high approval rating made electing Kaine easier than it might have been. The blowback from Jerry Kilgore's bad Hitler ads was a gift to Kaine.

Allen’s Macaca Meltdown was about as big a gift as a long-shot candidate could have received from his opponent. Warner beat former Gov. Jim Gilmore, last year. And, Gilmore has remained a hard man to like since his last couple of years in the governor's mansion.

Each of those wins, including Obama’s -- he was the first Democrat to carry Virginia since 1964 -- came to Democrats in great part, because Republicans had done remarkably stupid things, which made it easier for Democrats to beat them.

Even with all his charm, electing Obama would have been much more difficult had he not followed the worst president in generations. Yes, Bush made Obama’s theme of “change” seem much more righteous and palatable than it might have been otherwise.

This year Bob McDonnell has not made it easy to beat him; he hasn’t had anything resembling meltdown. His campaign has run smoothly and calmly throughout the process. Over and over, the candidate has said the things about taxes and government spending that Republicans always like to hear, but he hasn’t said them in a way to inflame Democrats.

McDonnell's ultra conservative history, especially on cultural matters, and his longtime connection to televangelist Pat Robertson haven't been seen by enough Democrats as problematic enough to motivate them.

Without having been inflamed, some of the Democrats in Virginia, meaning the voters who elected Kaine, Webb and Warner (again), seem unmoved by Deeds. Too many Democrats, it seems, need to be angry at Republicans in order to enthusiastically support their own candidates.

These same lukewarm Democrats appear to have forgotten what it was like in Virginia when Gilmore was governor. His last year in office the budget-making process in the General Assembly completely broke down.

This time around Republicans haven’t made it easy for Democrats to get pissed off. Without being so aroused, with the economy apparently improving, it seems some number of Democrats have gotten bored with this year's issues and candidates. McDonnell doesn't scare them; he doesn't piss them off.

After Gov. McDonnell's many appointees have been on the job for a couple of years, it might be easier for Virginia's most passionless Democrats to remember why life is usually better for working taxpayers when Republicans aren't in charge.

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Stuart said...

Low voter turnout will win this one for McDonnell. I predict 40% or less of eligible voters will cast a vote tomorrow.

Scott said...

Not excited about holding my nose and voting for and against more corporate Republicrats.

Green Party needs more candidates.