Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

bartonmugThe final lap of Virginia’s gubernatorial race began last weekend at the tony Homestead Resort in the Allegheny Mountains west of us.  Gubernatorial candidates Creigh Deeds (D) and Robert McDonnell (R) met for their first debate before a gaggle of lawyers at the annual convention of the Virginia Bar Association.

bartonmugThe final lap of Virginia’s gubernatorial race began last weekend at the tony Homestead Resort in the Allegheny Mountains west of us.  Gubernatorial candidates Creigh Deeds (D) and Robert McDonnell (R) met for their first debate before a gaggle of lawyers at the annual convention of the Virginia Bar Association.

According to the newspaper reports, McDonnell was on the offensive during most of the debate, capitalizing on his smooth debate style of speaking, compared to Deeds’ more hesitant and reflective style of speaking – unpolished, is what some debate coaches might call it.

If I were Deeds, I would not care about this one bit. In fact, as the campaign debates wear on, I think there is a greater chance that McDonnell will appear to be almost too smooth and, dare I say it, glib and just a tad misleading. My limited experience with Deeds in person is that he comes across as a very sincere politician, very concerned about doing what needs to be done, and very knowledgeable about how to make that happen.

This is going to be a hard fought campaign, particularly since the Republicans have had their back against the wall for some time, losing the last two gubernatorial races and the majority in the Virginia State Senate, both U.S. Senate races, and taking a majority of Virginia’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Preliminary polls indicate that there is a very good chance that the Democrats will also take control of the Virginia House of Delegates.

And of course there was the stunning victory of Barack Obama, the first Democratic candidate for President to carry Virginia since the Lyndon Johnson landslide victory in 1964.

There are many reasons for this decline in Republican fortunes both nationwide and in Virginia. But the primary reason is that there has been a pronounced shift in the political and cultural leanings of the electorate as the younger generations of every racial, cultural, and ethnic mix reach their majority and begin to vote. They are far more pragmatic politically. They are far more interested in the development of a society and culture that is very accepting, fair to all, and are focused much more on the pragmatic solution of obvious problems than the promotion of political and economic ideologies, be they liberal or conservative.

There is, for example, a strong shift among younger voters on social issues such as gay marriage (for), abortion (for – or to be more precise, in favor of a woman’s right to choose), and gun control (for). It is not so much that they are shifting on these issues, but that they have become unimportant to the younger voter. There views are far more pragmatic than those of very conservative – and evangelical – Republicans. For that reason, I am now ready to predict that Creigh Deeds will become Virginia’s next governor.  He will almost certainly carry Northern Virginia – which he unexpectedly strongly carried in the Democratic primary (and which I most emphatically failed to see coming.) And I believe he will strongly carry the rest of the state as well, if for no other reason than that he is not from Northern Virginia.

But whatever happens, us political junkies are looking forward to a very interesting race this fall.

 Richard Barton may be emailed at [email protected]