Commentary Magazine


Reading the Tea Leaves Before Counting the Votes

They are already writing the Deeds obit — and reading the tea leaves. The Washington Post looks at Bob McDonnell’s 9-point lead over Deeds in the Post’s latest poll:

The findings paint a portrait of the electorate that, if replicated elsewhere, stands as a warning sign for President Obama and Democrats who will be running in next year’s midterm elections. The new poll shows a lack of enthusiasm among many of the voters who propelled Obama and his party to victory last November, raising troubling questions for the Democrats: Were many of Obama’s 2008 energetic supporters one-time participants in the political process who care little about other races? Is Obama’s current agenda turning off some voters who backed him last year but now may be looking elsewhere?

Well, in fairness to Deeds, he hasn’t lost yet, but one can sense how jumpy the liberal media is — and how precarious Obama’s aura of political invincibility seems less than a year after he reshaped the political landscape (or so we were told by the now nervous mainstream media). The fretting is more pronounced, perhaps, in Virginia because Republican Bob McDonnell has made a point of running against the Obama agenda — card check, cap-and-trade, and tax hikes. To a greater extent than anyone could have predicted, McDonnell has made this into a “send a message to D.C.” election. Voters in a swing state now have their chance to  register disapproval over the ultra-liberal agenda. And hence, the liberal media and Democratic consultants and incumbents fret.

And then there is that “intensity” gap. Many more McCain voters than Obama voters are planning to turn out this time, suggesting all those first-time voters in 2008 may not be repeat customers for Democrats. Part of this may be explained by the difference between a presidential election (an historic one, at that) and a gubernatorial race that doesn’t have the same allure for younger voters. But then Obama won’t be on the ballot in 2010 either.

Would a Deeds loss in a prominent swing state send shock waves through Congress? Perhaps, but just to be on the safe side, be prepared to hear plenty more bad-mouthing of Deeds from the White House and national Democratic establishment. (“Creigh Deeds has not been the world’s greatest candidate, that’s for sure,” huffs an anonymous White House spinner.) They wouldn’t want anyone to get the idea that the Age of Obama is toxic for Democrats.