Virginia loss writ large for Democrats

Kimberly Strassel:

Not so long ago, Democrats were thrilled by the long length of Barack Obama's coattails. Creigh Deeds would be a lot more thrilled today if he could just step off.

Mr. Deeds is the Democratic state senator running for governor of Virginia, and while he's at it, running away from his commander in chief. It ought to worry Democrats that their top recruit for the year already views their Washington agenda as a liability. It ought to worry Mr. Deeds that there seems no escape.

The Virginian's problem is that he's a little too important to party leaders. The Obama White House isn't half as worried about what Virginia means for next year's elections as it is what Virginia means for this year's health fight. A wipeout in the Old Dominion could send Blue Dogs scampering for cover. If health care isn't done by Nov. 3, it may not get done. Mr. Obama needs Mr. Deeds to win.

Then there's current Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, moonlighting as new head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). He claimed Mr. Obama's victory last year in his state proved "old Virginny is dead." This is his home turf, his gubernatorial legacy, as well as the first big test of his ability to continue his party's electoral victories. Mr. Kaine needs Mr. Deeds to win.

And don't forget Big Labor, which worries that a prominent Democratic defeat might slow its political momentum in Washington. Labor has also been itching to make purple Virginia a proving ground for ambitions like rolling back right-to-work laws. The unions need Mr. Deeds to win.

These big forces are pouring everything into a Deeds victory. Presidential and DNC fund raising helped the relatively unknown Democrat raise $3.5 million the last quarter alone, a bigger haul than any gubernatorial candidate in state history. Unions, including biggies like the SEIU, chipped in nearly a quarter.

Mr. Deeds needs that money, yet the penalty has been guilt by association. His opponent, Republican and former state Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, made a big bet early on that the very Virginia voters who last year helped Mr. Obama win the state today have grave doubts about his agenda, and are wary of making the same mistake. Mr. Deeds has played right into his hands.


When the Democrat tries to make the race about local roads, local taxes, local jobs and local education, Mr. McDonnell has, with laser-like precision, forced him instead to defend what his party's cap-and-trade legislation would do to Virginia's economy, defend what Washington's health-care agenda would do to Virginia senior citizens, or defend the February stimulus that has not created jobs.


The Demcorats have tried to personalize the race by focusing, with the help of a relentless Washington Post campaign. on McDonalds college thesis. It is the kind of thing they said was unimportant when the GOP raised questions about Hillary Clinton's or Obama's college writings.

The article does point out one of the reasons for the rush to vote on health care before November 3. At this point even an early vote does not look like a winner. I think if the Democrats do pass the health care bill it will be worse for them than failing to.


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