1. How Do You Respond to Three Bad Polls?
You go on the attack. In the last two weeks, we’ve seen three polls showing Bob McDonnell ahead in the race by 8-14 points and his “positives” in the stratosphere. One poll had McDonnell’s positive-negative ratio at 55-26. Get ready for the Democrats to try to bring him back to earth. And how are they going to do this. Attack his position on social issues for starters. Try to excite the base and scare the moderates. Democratic oppo researchers have been seen trying to unearth old House audio/video looking for McDonnell clips that can be used in Deeds commercials. The polls also show that, at the moment, there is a real “Enthusiasm Gap” between an energized GOP and an indifferent Democratic electorate. Attacks are a way to remind a complacent base about the Dems think is at stake in the election. Will the general public bite…. well, that’s another question.
2. Barack and Creigh: The Charter Guys
When President Obama appeared at a fundraiser for Deeds this week, the Democratic nominee pointed to their “strong support” for charter schools as a key feature of their mutual commitment to education. This came as a bit of a surprise to Bob McDonnell who has been praising Obama’s position on charter schools for months and has received substantial criticism from Democratic-leaning education groups. I think two things are going on here. First, Deeds remains unwilling to endorse a number of other national Democratic party policy initiatives and probably finds it far easier to say some kind words abut charters than about cap and trade or card check. And, second…
3. Ed Reform v. Ed Support
Deeds is attempting to set up a contrast with McDonnell that will be a centerpiece of his campaign strategy and rhetoric. McDonnell is clearly campaigning as an education reformer, someone who plans to solve Virginia’s problems with initiatives such as merit pay for teachers, charter schools, and a new direction in higher ed policy. Deeds, by contrast, wants the campaign to be about support for education. It’s as if he’s saying- Yes, of course, I’m for for charter schools, but isn’t the real issue support for education, and doesn’t Bob McDonnell want to take money out the general fund to pay for transportation, and didn’t he oppose Mark Warner’s effort to put more money into education. Education reform v. Education support is a fascinating contrast and is going to help determine the outcome in November.
4. Do Bad Budget Projections Matter?
Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling says that they should. Governor Kaine announced this week that there is likely to be a continuing shortfall in the state budget and that additional cuts will have to be made. Bolling has argued for the past two years that the state’s budget predictions have been far too rosy and that it would have been easier to manage the cuts if the shortfall amounts had been more accurately forecasted. It’s clear that Bolling intends to make this a central feature of his case against Jody Wagner, Tim Kaine’s first Secretary of Finance. For her part, Wagner argues that Virginia’s forecasts are developed through an advisory group of prominent economists and that the Virginia economy is in better shape than most states. This issue is providing voters with a very clear choice about a crucially important question: is the Virginia economy basically moving in the right direction?
5. Public Divided on Kaine’s Job Rating
One of the more interesting features of the set of polls released this week was that public sentiment about Tim Kaine’s job performance has become decidedly mixed, with almost equal numbers of people approving and disapproving. I tend to believe that the Governor’s decision to assume a second role at the DNC has a lot to do with the decline in his numbers. Put simply, citizens are not always comfortable with a Governor whose night job is to serve as his national party’s partisan-in-chief. Kaine’s role as party chair may turn out to be a boon to Creigh Deeds’ fundraising, but it is complicating message development in unforeseen ways.
6. Webb’s GI Bill
It was a big week for Jim Webb as President Obama and other dignitaries came to George Mason University to celebrate the passage of Webb’s Post 9-11 GI Bill. For a first term Senator, Webb has been in the mddle of any number of major initiatives. In fact, he has been far more than in the mix- he’s become a prominent intellectual force in the Democratic Party on a number of high profile security and defense issues. The new GI Bill is a major accomplishment .
7. Mayors Behaving Badly?
A few weeks agao the Colonia Beach Town Council sent a letter to their Mayor saying that he was no longer welcome in City Hall, given his alleged behavior with the staff. This week the Portsmouth City Council fined its mayor James Holley $2500 for misusing his assistant. According to the Council’s charge detailed by the Virginian-Pilot, the mayor’s assistant shopped for shoe trees, cancelled his subscription to Playboy and made appointments he requested at Foxy Nails. The mayor told a local television that “everything I do is city business.” In an unusual therapeutic touch, the Council has volunteered to pay for “counseling” for the Mayor at the city’s expense.