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Virginia Voters Want to be Wooed, Too!

October 12, 2009

Former Republican Congressman Walter Judd of Minnesota (1943-1963) once gave presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon an important piece of political advice that ultimately helped him win the presidency in the 1968 election against Democratic Senator Hubert Humphrey.

"Dick," Congressman Judd advised Nixon, "You’ve got to make love to the people." Nixon responded by diving into crowds and connecting with voters throughout that presidential campaign. He would later write about what the Congressman had told him, saying, "You must show you care - and you must care."

A good political operative knows that elections are more akin to a "romance" than any kind of logical or reasoned activity - and Nixon - like so many other candidates - had a hard time warming up to this concept.

Voters in Virginia are seeing this idea played out in the current gubernatorial campaign where Republican, Bob McDonnell, has taken a commanding lead over the Democrat challenger, Creigh Deeds. The political stakes have national implications for President Barrack Obama - who carried the traditional Red State in 2008.

Less than a year later these same Virginia voters have turned against President Obama’s policies and may send him a message by sending a Republican to the governor’s office.

Deeds is desperately trying to paint McDonnell as being an anti-woman candidate and seems to be pinning his entire hopes of winning the election on making such a case. He isn’t trying to lure voters into liking or respecting him for who he is and what he stands for, instead Deeds is too busy trying to make a negative case against McDonnell and this is turning voters off.

As in a real-life "romance" it might be handy for a potential suitor to cleverly point out his competition’s bad traits - but it’s always more important for the gal being pursued to be head-over-heels about the suitor himself - not simply turned off by the competition.

This is the crux of Deed’s troubles and why the latest poll numbers have him trailing far behind McDonnell. Voters see the Deeds campaign as negative and too far reaching in making its case that McDonnell is anti-woman.

The Deeds argument is centered on a political thesis that McDonnell wrote in college some 20 years ago where he discussed his views about working women and raising kids. This is a legitimate socio-political point of discussion - and one that every family who decides to raise kids and work - must discuss and weigh the various pros and cons.

Among other things, Deeds is saying that this thesis is proof positive that McDonnell is an anti-working woman candidate. He wants voters to believe that the issue should not be a point of discussion - and if someone raises the issue in a political paper - that person is automatically "anti-woman" and should be disqualified from holding high office.

Recent surveys, as reported in The Washington Post, say the majority of Virginians are turned off by this argument - including the vast majority of women. In fact the latest poll results show a dead-heat between the two candidates among women voters in Virginia.

The Post has also acknowledged that Deeds may not receive any more help from President Obama in the final weeks of the campaign - and prominent Democrats in the state have been critical of the tone of his campaign.

As former Congressman Judd once advised Nixon, "You’ve got to make love to the people." With three weeks ‘till election day - someone in the Deeds camp needs to implore the candidate to heed this advice.

Every woman wants to be wooed during the "romance", and voters do, too.


Robb can be reached at