You know things aren’t going well for Democrat Creigh Deeds in the Virginia gubernatorial race when Rep. Jim Moran, brother of Deeds’s former primary rival, tells him publicly to knock off the negative ads. Well, there are lots of them. Living in northern Virginia, you are bombarded with Deeds’s grainy, ominous-sounding TV ads filled with frightened women (think “thesis-gate”!). Even the lawn signs are nasty (“McDonnell Cuts Education!”).
Moran, in the pages of the Washington Post (which made thesis-gate the defining — and negative — focus of Deeds’s campaign), reminds Deeds that he won the primary by being the “nice guy” in the race. And Moran comes right out with this tidbit: “People know about the thesis — the people who care about the thesis, they’re in Northern Virginia and they read the Post and they know. But there’s got to be more. He’s got to give people a reason to vote for Creigh.” (Another irony: Moran’s brother Brian ran an exceptionally negative primary campaign, losing to Deeds, who was distinguished by sunny, offbeat ads that made him seem rather normal for a politician.)
The problem with running a negative campaign about nothing is that voters, not to mention editorial pages around the state, don’t like a purely negative campaign, especially when the candidate never defined himself. Deeds wasted the summer months and, unlike his opponent, failed to come up with substantive policy proposals. So all voters really know about him is that he’s a Democrat (not a plus right now in the swing state of Virginia) and that he’s running those horrid ads. Maybe Deeds will take the advice and go positive for the final stretch. But it may be too late. Perhaps, when all is said and done, the Post and its thesis crusade did Deeds no favor.