Morning Fix: Creigh Deeds's Presidential Dilemma
Two-thirds of Virginia voters said that President Obama's support of Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D) either makes no difference or makes them less likely to back the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, according to a new Washington Post survey.
Thirty four percent of voters said that Obama's endorsement made them less likely to vote for Deeds, the same number that said the backing of the president made them more likely to back the Democratic state Senator. Three in ten voters said Obama's support made no difference in their vote.
Inside the numbers, Obama's backing was a major plus for self-identified Democrats (71 percent said it made them more likely to vote for Deeds) and a major minus for Republicans (59 percent less likely to back an Obama-supported Deeds).
Most interestingly, however, was that just 23 percent of Independents said the support of Obama increased their likelihood of voting for Deeds while 37 percent said it made them less likely to support the Democratic nominee. Nearly four in ten (38 percent) said Obama's endorsement made no difference in their vote.
As we have written in this space many times, independents formed the backbone of not only Obama's winning coalition in 2008 -- particularly in previously Republican leaning states like Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia -- but also of Democratic gains in the House and Senate last November and in 2006.
These numbers suggest that Obama's hold on independents has faded since last November in Virginia -- the inevitable result when campaign promises and governing reality clash.
They also seem to argue in favor of the idea that Virginians -- and perhaps Americans more broadly -- favor divided government with independent voters swaying in between the Republican and Democratic parties depending on who holds control in Washington.
While the numbers suggest that Obama is not the unalloyed benefit to Deeds that he was regarded for downballot Democrats last year, he is nowhere near the anchor status that former President George W. Bush achieved during the 2005 Virginia governor's race.
A Post survey conducted in October 2005 showed nearly half of voters saying that Bush's backing of former state Attorney General Jerry Kilgore made it less likely they would back the Republican nominee for governor. Just one in four said Bush's backing made it more likely they would support Kilgore, who went on to lose to Gov. Tim Kaine (D).
Unlike Kilgore who avoided Bush -- skipping a chance to appear with the president just 11 days before the election -- Deeds will almost certainly welcome Obama to the state at least once more before November.
But, the Post poll numbers suggest that Deeds must be careful not to overplay the Obama endorsement for fear of a backlash -- particularly among independents