Obama: A Friend in Deeds?

By Gorman Gorman

Aug 6, 2009 5:11pm

ABC News’ Sarah Tobianski reports:

This evening, President Obama is venturing into the Democratic-friendly territory of Northern Virginia to hold a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Creigh Deeds.

The President is hoping to carry some of the momentum the Democratic Party gained in Virginia on Election Day – when he flipped the swing state from Red to Blue – despite slipping approval numbers in the state, which are down to 42% according to a recent phone survey.  These surveys are not considered reliable by many respected pollsters.  

President Obama will be throwing his presidential weight behind Virginia State Senator Deeds who faces a dead heat with Republican opponent and former Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell, as of last month.

But experts say the Presidential bully pulpit may not be enough to really help Deeds.  The same phone survey suggests Deeds may be lagging by as much as 14 points.

“No rally in August is going to have much impact on a November 3rd vote,” said Dr. Larry Sabato, Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.  “Obama will have to come back several times, and focus on Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and the African-American community—all places where Deeds is currently weaker than a Democrat should be.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., a former governor, weighed in on Deed’s poll numbers today on ABC’s Top Line with Rick Klein and David Chalian.

“I think that if the president stays focused – which he is legendarily known to do – those polling numbers will return,” said Warner, who served as Virginia’s governor from 2002 to 2006. “At the end of the day, people in Virginia are less about Democrats, Republicans. They’re more about electing folks, particularly at the gubernatorial level, who can get stuff done. And I think our candidate, Creigh Deeds, who’s had a history of working with both Democrats and Republicans about getting stuff done, he’ll do very well.”

Unlike his last rally for a gubernatorial candidate – when New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie posted a “welcome” message to President Obama – the GOP candidate Bob McDonnell will not be confronting President Obama in light of his declining popularity.

“No one knows where Obama will be in October and early November, when it really matters,” Sabato said.  “McDonnell isn’t going to [welcome] Obama directly, making himself a captive to presidential ratings and possibly energizing the Democratic base voters who are still very pro-Obama.”

Another issue – the so-called “birther movement,” those who question President Obama’s US citizenship, which has found some traction in Virginia.

McDonnell recently indicated that he doesn’t intend to get in the fray on this one.

“When asked if he believed President Obama was born in the United States yesterday during a live chat yesterday, he said vaguely, “President Obama is a citizen; he is the president of the United States.”

“Notice that McDonnell did NOT say, ‘Obama was born in the U.S,’” Sabato said, “They are a fringe group, and no one who endorses their views is going to be elected statewide in a moderate place like Virginia,” Sabato said.

Because the birther movement seems to have some lasting traction, Sabato says McDonnell is guaranteed to be asked the question again until he spells out his views specifically.

McDonnell will provide this week’s Republican response to President Obama’s weekly address. It is believed he will stick to Republican talking points on the dangers of overspending and overtaxing as well as job creation.

McDonnell and Deeds have battled one another before at the polls. They ran against each other in the 2005 Virginia Attorney General race, one of the closest statewide elections in Virginia history. McDonnell won by 323 votes.

-Sarah Tobianski

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