Below The Beltway

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Virginia Governor’s Race Tightens; McDonnell Advantage Evaporates

For months while the Democratic candidates for Virginia Governor fought it out, Republican nominee Bob McDonnell was sitting pretty. He had no opposition for the GOP nomination, poll after poll showed him leading regardless of which Democrat he was matched up against, and he enjoyed a significant fundraising advantage.

Now that Virginia Democrats have chosen their nominee, though, things are looking very different:

Newly chosen Democratic gubernatorial nominee R. Creigh Deeds leads his Republican opponent, former Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, by six points in the first poll of Virginia voters released since Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey taken Wednesday night finds Deeds with 47% of the vote and McDonnell with 41%. Two percent (2%) favor of some other candidate and 10% are undecided.

Forty-two percent (42%) say Deeds, a state senator from Bath County, is also more likely to win in November, while 34% give the edge to McDonnell.

On some level this isn’t really all that surprising.

After all, we’re talking about a state that, over the past four years has seen Tim Kaine defeat of Jerry Kilgore, which was followed by George Allen’s loss to Jim Webb, then it was the legislative losses in 2007, and, finally, came 2008 when Virginia went for a Democratic Presidential candidate for the first time 44 years and the state’s other Senate seat went Democratic rather handily.

In the seven months since the 2008 elections, it has seemed as if Virginia Republicans were headed for something of a comeback, at least at the top of the ticket, but that comeback is by no means guaranteed, and I think that what I said more than a year ago in the wake of the 2007 debacle still applies:

The question is what the GOP needs to do to reverse what has quickly turned into a decline — and the answer to that lies in the state’s two fastest growing regions; Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Unless Virginia Republicans can find a way to stay competitive (or in some cases become competitive again) in these areas, they aren’t going to win statewide elections.

This doesn’t mean that Republicans need to become more like Democrats in order to win in places like Fairfax and Loudoun (if I were a Republican, I’d forget about Arlington and Alexandria for the time being — they’ll start voting Republican around the same time Massachusetts and San Francisco do), but it does mean they need to start convincing voters there that they have real solutions to the problems that voters in these areas care about — education, transportation, taxes.

The problem has been that Republicans in Richmond have behaved more like a Lite Beer version of the Democratic Party over the past several years. Rather than offering real alternative ideas, they’re just watering down traditionally Democratic “solutions” and passing them off as their own. Is it really any surprise that voters aren’t impressed ?

I would think not.

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