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Posted June 12, 2009 | comments Leave a comment

Telegraphing punches and the conventional wisdom

Lots of ink has been spilled in recent days over just what the "conventional wisdom" about campaign 2009 is going to be. Just how will the re-match between Republican Bob McDonnell and Democrat Creigh Deeds play out?

Over at Tertium Quids, Norm Leahy thinks the conventional wisdom has yet to solidify. He's right. But when you spend as much time sitting up here in the Cheap Seats as we do, you learn to read the stitches on the fastball as it's coming toward you.

Not that it takes a great deal of work to see how these two campaigns are going to unfold. Both have poker faces like a 10 year old boy hopped up on nitrous oxide and methamphetamine.

So here, in broad strokes, is how this campaign will play out.

The working wisdom among the chattering class will be that Deeds is now as he was in 2005 -- a back-country conservative Democrat, and it's an idea that the campaign will push forward hard.

It's a strategy with a lot of merit. Deeds came within a whisker of beating McDonnell in 2005. It also plays well into that Mark Warner strategy of working the "urban crescent" -- win big in Northern Virginia, and don't get massacred anywhere else.

But if I know my campaign staffers, McDonnell communications guru Tucker Martin has an army of GOP Google monkeys pouring over the legislative records of the past four years, looking at every single vote Deeds cast, watching video of every moment he was on the floor talking about controversial issues.

Because Deeds had to put some tarnish on those backwoods credentials to get enough Northern Virginia street cred to become viable in Northern Virginia, aka the Washington Post endorsement. Recall Senate Bill 6009 and Sen. Henry Marsh's gun show "loophole" bill.

I'd look for lots of talk about walk-back on the marriage amendment, too.

Meanwhile, Democrats have telegraphed their line of attack against McDonnell (and many other Republicans) for months. They plan to use the remaining afterglow of President Obama's campaign and cast McDonnell as someone who opposes his agenda, most notably, the stimulus money aimed at unemployment.

They're also planning to use whatever lingering dislike remains for President Bush and aim it toward McDonnell. If economic conditions begin to improve between now and November, look for lots of stuff like "continuing the failed economic policies of George W. Bush," etc.

See what the Democratic Governors Association and the Democratic Party of Virginia have already done. McDonnell doesn't want to help the unemployed, McDonnell opposes the stimulus, ergo McDonnell wanted to cut education, etc.

If the Democrats need a little extra fire for the base, they'll attack McDonnell as being too close to Pat Robertson and fundamentalist Christians, raising the "theocracy" line of attack.

At the bottom line, both camps are looking to define their opponents in terms of Obama, and in terms of Virginia: Deeds wants to be seen as a solid denizen of RoVa who is acceptable to NoVa, who backs Obama, while McDonnell wants to be seen as a RoVa resident who can keep NoVa out of everyone's wallet, and will oppose bailouts and other unpopular Obama faire.

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