Deeds "campaign shift"

From a liberal blog, interesting pass-on…lets not get to comfortable in Virginia:

From our fearless reporter (and Virginia Beach YD’s chair) Kyle Blankenship comes news (from several sources on the coordinated campaign, Organizing for America, and the Deeds campaign) that the Virginia branch of OFA is “joining forces with the Deeds campaign” and is “going to contact every new voter in 2008” (quotes from Pat Okerlund of OFA on Kyle’s Facebook page).

In other news; according to what Kyle’s hearing, almost all the negative stuff – TV/radio ads, call/walk scripts, and literature – is being pulled by the Deeds campaign (I’ll believe it when I see it). Supposedly, it’s being replaced by ads similar to what we saw at the end of the Democratic primary last spring, including ones that tell us who Creigh Deeds is (the slogan “letting Creigh be Creigh” reportedly is being bandied about). Let’s hope.

This messaging change – if it actually takes place – should have occurred some time ago, but that there’s no way to go back in time (unless you’re Bob McDonnell, who will try to take us back to the “Father Knows Best” 1950s). I also agree with Kyle that the Deeds campaign should have laid out who Creigh is – in other words, crafted a “personal narrative” of their candidate – a long time ago as well. Frankly, this is Campaigning 101, and it just baffles me that it wasn’t done months ago, especially considering the fact that Creigh is such a likable, down-to-earth guy. Along with the failure to craft a clear political narrative and to tie it into the (non-existent, for the most part) personal narrative, this has been a huge mistake by the Deeds campaign.

Fortunately, Kyle’s sources are telling him that from now on, it’s mostly going to be positive. While that’s unlikely to be enough in and of itself for Creigh to win, if it happens it might give the Deeds campaign some earned media and get people talking (and maybe motivated, which they haven’t been). Potentially, this could boost Deeds a couple of percentage points. I’m highly skeptical at this point, but we’ll see…

The overall thinking in all this apparently is that if the Deeds campaign lays off the attack ads, and if McDonnell keeps the negatives coming, that may backfire on McDonnell and boost Creigh. At this point, with Creigh down about 8 points in the polls, I personally see no reason not to try this strategy. Frankly, it can’t be worse than the strategy that’s been employed so far, namely “mention Bob’s thesis 24/7, run away from Obama and important Democratic priorities/policies, focus on rural Virginia and pay relatively little attention to ‘urban crescent’ voters.”

Also, while a strategy change probably won’t be enough at this late stage in the game, you never know in politics (or sports). One of the things we did on the Webb campaign in 2006 was to pressure George Allen relentlessly and hope he made a mistake (aka, “forced error”). It worked, and he did. So far this election cycle, Bob McDonnell hasn’t been pressured much at all, except on the thesis (which he’s handled pretty well overall). Given that situation, a change in strategy by the Deeds campaign now might mess up McDonnell’s “best-laid plans” a bit. If – and this is a big “if” – Deeds can start closing the gap in the polls, McDonnell might start feeling some pressure and make a mistake. Right now, McDonnell has every reason in the world to be cocky and overconfident, and that can lead to mistakes in and of itself.

Anyway, I agree that it’s time to shake things up and see what might happen. I really hope the campaign does what Kyle reports they’re planning to do. Then, if all the stars align and Creigh gets to within the margin of error (2%-3%?) a few days before the election, you never know what might happen. Of course, Creigh will need a fantastic final 21 days, plus a super-strong Washington Post endorsement, plus Barack Obama coming to Virginia (see the “p.s.”), plus everything else to go right, plus McDonnell to screw up somehow. For all that to happen is unlikely, probably wishful thinking, but what the heck, at least it might provide some excitement and help boost a few Democratic House of Delegates candidates (plus Steve Shannon?) over the finish line. As Kyle says, “I’m not convinced by any means that [Creigh] can do it, but I want to believe.” Me too!

P.S. Let’s also hope that President Obama is coming to Virginia, because it’s sorely needed to boost turnout by Obama’s supporters (African Americans, young people, suburban whites). Needless to say, as witnessed by last year’s Obama victory in Virginia, there are lots of those voters…