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First thoughts: White House vs. Deeds

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** White House vs. Deeds: In an interview earlier this month, Creigh Deeds (D) blamed, in part, the Democrats' national agenda as he trails Bob McDonnell (R) in Virginia's gubernatorial race. "Frankly, a lot of what's going on in Washington has made it very tough," he said. But now the White House is blaming Deeds. A senior administration official tells the Washington Post that Deeds made several mistakes in his campaign. "I understood in the beginning why there was some reluctance to run all around the state with Barack Obama," the official said. "You don't do that in Virginia. But when you consider the African American turnout that they need, and then when you consider as well they've got a huge problem with surge voters, younger voters, we were just a natural for them." Said another official: "Obama, Kaine and others had drawn a road map to victory in Virginia. Deeds chose another path." Ouch.

*** Why pile on Deeds -- now? But why are some folks at the White House trying to throw Deeds under the bus -- at least right now? For one thing, Obama is campaigning for Deeds on Tuesday (this reminds us of that New York Times story about the White House pressuring David Paterson to get out of his race right before Obama was set to make a stop in New York). Also, Obama is now appearing in a TV ad for Deeds. Finally, the C.W. was already beginning to settle -- without the White House's help! -- that Deeds has no one to blame but himself for his campaign struggles. While McDonnell has effectively used national issues like the health-care debate, cap-and-trade, and even card check against Deeds, this month's Washington Post poll -- which had the Republican leading the Democrat by nine points among likely voters (53%-44%) -- showed that Deeds isn't facing a stiff political headwind in this race. If anything, it's a very gentle breeze. In that Post poll, Obama's approval rating in Virginia was 58% among registered voters and 53% among likely voters -- that 53% matching the percentage Obama won in Virginia last year. Perhaps more surprisingly, incumbent Gov. Tim Kaine, who also has become DNC chairman, had a 60% approval rating.

*** When you're losing on the economy, you're likely not going to win: Indeed, Deeds is losing this race on the issues. Per that Post poll, likely voters trusted McDonnell more on the economy (53%-39%), transportation (49%-37%), the budget (52%-36%). education (51%-40%), and even health care (44%-42%). The only subjects that Deeds outscored McDonnell were on women's issues (47%-41%) and abortion (44%-42%) -- and that's after all the scrutiny on McDonnell's controversial 1989 thesis. So here's our question: Why couldn't have folks at the White House have waited until after Nov. 3 to throw Deeds under the bus? Today's Washington Post story, plus the earlier New York Times one on Paterson, doesn't look at all like the highly disciplined and discreet Team Obama we saw during the presidential campaign. Bottom line: There's no good for the White House to pile on Deeds; it seems like an unnecessary headache at this point. By the way, here's a tiny reminder to the White House: The reason both Corzine in NJ and Owens in NY-23 are showing no fear in using the president is that both Democrats only need DEMOCRATS to win their respective races, as both feature three-way dynamics, which make base turnout critical. Deeds doesn't have that luxury. 

*** The campaigner-in-chief: President Obama today continues to wear his campaign hat. Beginning at 2:00 pm ET, he hits two fundraising events in Boston for Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D). Then he heads to Connecticut, where he does a fundraiser for Sen. Chris Dodd (D) at 6:45 pm. Before those fundraisers, the president delivers a speech at 12:30 pm at MIT on energy and climate change. By the way, Republicans who are running against Dodd have some activities tied to Obama's visit today. For starters, Linda McMahon (wife of WWE's Vince McMahon) is airing a TV ad in Connecticut. And Tom Foley is holding a press avail at 2:30 pm. Interestingly, both Patrick and Dodd may find themselves in a similar situation to Corzine's -- in need of the president simply to ratchet up Dem support. Patrick is facing a three-way race in 2010 (Dem-turned-indie plus a VERY solid Republican recruit), while Dodd is simply trying to get back disaffected Dems to his side.

*** Public option here we come -- or not: Here's a twist… Just as Harry Reid, per the New York Times, is now pushing for a public option (with a state opt-out), Politico is reporting that Nancy Pelosi does NOT have 218 votes in the House for a robust public option. Given the pressure Reid has received from progressives on the public option, we can understand why he's now trying to embrace the public option plan. But here's what has folks scratching their heads: Why did Senate Democrats devote so much time to trying to win over Olympia Snowe (and possibly Susan Collins) if they were later going to opt for legislation that she couldn't support? And here's a final thing that has to be frustrating the White House: The public option is STILL the central debate in health care, when according to estimates, it would attract just about 12 million Americans (about the size of Pennsylvania)?  and

*** Palin endorses Hoffman: Sarah Palin has stepped into the GOP civil war in NY-23 by endorsing conservative third-party candidate Doug Hoffman over the more moderate GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava. On her Facebook page, Palin wrote, "[B]est of all, Doug Hoffman has not been anointed by any political machine. Doug Hoffman stands for the principles that all Republicans should share: smaller government, lower taxes, strong national defense, and a commitment to individual liberty. Political parties must stand for something. When Republicans were in the wilderness in the late 1970s, Ronald Reagan knew that the doctrine of 'blurring the lines' between parties was not an appropriate way to win elections. Unfortunately, the Republican Party today has decided to choose a candidate who more than blurs the lines, and there is no real difference between the Democrat and the Republican in this race." (Of course, Reagan also had that 11th Commandment: Thou shall not speak ill of another Republican.)

*** Can you spare some change? Here's a fun number… Since 2000, Jon Corzine and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg have remarkably spent a combined $371.2 million on their campaigns. Bloomberg's total: $243.6 million ($74 million in 2001, $84.6 million in 2005, and $85 million SO FAR in 2009, a record for a municipal election). Corzine: $127.6 million ($65 million in 2000 for U.S. Senate, $40 million in 2005 for governor, and $22.6 million so far on his reelection this year -- he had promised to spend $40 million to $50 million on this race). By the way, the country of Bloomborzine, funded just by these campaign expenditures, would have the 213th largest GDP in the world -- between Tonga and the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe. (Here's another comparison: In his 2009 race, former T-Mobile exec Joe Mallahan, a Democrat, has spent a Seattle mayoral record of his own money for the campaign, $230,000.)

*** Mrs. Popular: In our final look at women and politics as part of this week's NBC/MSNBC focus on women, First Read takes a look at First Lady Michelle Obama, who appears on Jay Leno's show tonight. The first lady has become a political asset for the White House, but that wasn't always the case. In Sept. 2008, in the thick of the general election, her fav/unfav in our NBC/WSJ poll was a pedestrian 40%-31%. But when we surveyed her again this April, it had grown to an impressive 64%-11%. In fact, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll, she's now more popular than her husband is: his fav/unfav in the poll is 55%-42%; hers is 61%-25%. 

Countdown to Election Day 2009: 11 days
Countdown to MA Special Primary: 46 days
Countdown to MA Special Election: 88 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 375 days

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