splitting between the Candidates. As expected, Republican editorial boards at the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star endorsed McDonnell. Creigh Deeds received the endorsements of the Roanoke Times - probably expected, considering that McDonnell refused multiple invitations to meet with the editorial board - and of the other of McDonnell's "hometown" newspapers, the Virginian Pilot, which was far more critical of McDonnell than praising of Deeds.
Below the fold I will offer some extracts from all four editorials. I have no idea what value such endorsements may be, although I do note that the Washington Post's endorsement of Deeds in the primary propelled him to victory.
update at end
First, the McDonnell endorsements. From the Times-Dispatch, which notes
The commonwealth is fortunate that two thoroughly decent, knowledgeable men are seeking its highest office this year. Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell have long records of admirable public service. We believe that each possesses the integrity and experience required to be governor of Virginia, one of the most powerful executive offices in the country.
. This balanced praise of both candidates will effectively be unique among the four endorsements. But do not let that deceive you: the Times-Dispatch editorial board is right-wing, anti-tax, pro-business, and anti-union. Let me illustrate with two more selections, this:
McDonnell's insistence that taxes not be raised on Virginia's citizens and businesses represents not only a sound and pragmatic policy decision -- it also demonstrates one of his fundamental beliefs about the relationship between the government and the governed. In an era when government at many levels seems out of control -- prone to bouts of fiscal immaturity -- McDonnell understands that an effective, compassionate public sector is always defined by limited government. And he knows that those who earn paychecks and profits have first claim on those earnings. The tax collector must play a secondary role.
In a time when jobs are scarce, we are especially troubled by Deeds' reliance on massive funding from national unions, many of which represent public employees.
The unions expect a return on their investment in the Deeds campaign. Yet stronger unions will certainly mean fewer jobs in the private sector and public-employee unions will only add to the state's budget troubles. Just take a look at California for an example of the disastrous effects of beefed-up public-sector unions -- on the state budget, the political process, and the quality of life of everyday citizens and taxpayers. That's one road Virginia must not follow.
The endorsement from the Free Lance-Star is something of a joke. Perhaps this is best illustrated by the strongest reason they give for endorsing McDonnell:
Hearing nothing inspiring from either hopeful, the citizen must assay personal attributes. So:
Mr. McDonnell is articulate, certainly a virtue in leadership (recall George W. Bush’s chronic incoherence and its incurred cost in popular support). Mr. Deeds is not a confident speaker, giving the impression that he is confused by complexity or fears candor.
As Virginia blogger Chris Guy notes at Fred2Blue,
Says the paper that twice endorsed George W. Bush and declined to endorse Barack Obama, a man who’s constantly mocked for being an articulate speaker. Apparently, when you’re Bob McDonnell, those magically become leadership qualities!
I also like the fact that they don’t think Creigh Deeds would be able to work in a bi-partisan manner as Governor. EIGHT GOP members of the General Assembly who served with both men in Richmond have endorsed Deeds over their fellow Republican, Bob McDonnell (who the Free Lance-Star calls "a socially moderate lawmaker"). That includes former Finance Committee Chairman and State Senate President John Chichester of Fredericksburg.
Of course, the Free Lance-Star did endorse Democrat Steve Shannon over his Republican opponent Ken Cuccinelli for Attorney General, but then it could be said that Cuccinelli is one of the few men in public life in Virginia who could truly make McDonnell SEEM like a moderate in comparison.
Now for the Deeds endorsements, both of which have been explored on the front page at Blue Commonweath. First, the Roanoke paper, which notes as a subtitle to the endorsement
The longtime senator is the candidate for governor who is serious about the most pressing issue facing Virginia: transportation.
Transportation will also be key in the Pilot's endorsement. The Times says of McDonnell's proposals
His plan, as detailed as it may be, is a farce. It is a compendium of rejected ideas, supplemented by revenue from sources unlikely to pan out, topped off with money stolen from an already inadequate general fund.
His plan would not work and would guarantee that Virginia will do nothing to make up for a widening gulf between transportation needs and available resources.
The paper says that Deeds
made clear why a statewide solution is so important even though the severest congestion is in the more populous regions. This part of the state cannot expect assistance developing the infrastructure needed here if our residents turn their backs on Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads in the time of their greatest need.
In many other important policy areas, from energy development to education, Deeds demonstrates a clearer understanding of the issues and specific plans to work to better Virginia's response.
After noting that they view>McDonnell as "an extreme social conservative" focusing in particular on his opposition to abortion even in cases of rape or incest" they conclude
A clear look at both candidates, their records, the strengths and weaknesses of their positions, and their commitment to Virginia as a commonwealth makes it clear that Creigh Deeds is the best candidate for the job.
Virginia voters shouldn't let style win over substance.
The Pilot has perhaps the most interesting of the endorsements. It begins by describing the campaign as "a season of equivocation and insipidity." Then the editorial makes clear that they are not totally excited by Deeds, in fact are willing to criticize him, but that McDonnell is simply not accept5able:
An effusive endorsement would ring false in the final hours of what has been a profoundly frustrating contest of banalities. Neither candidate has made a convincing case on the merits of his ideas or the strength of his leadership. The choice instead rests on which one will do the least violence to the cause each claims to embrace.
By this measure, Creigh Deeds ekes out a modest advantage over his opponent. He offers a political strategy rather than a substantive plan for solving the state's most overwhelming challenge. While that strategy does not provide transportation advocates the leadership they crave, the Democrat at least allows them a fighting chance to press forward.
In contrast, Bob McDonnell's plan is a chain-link fence of stall tactics designed to distract voters into believing that progress is being made while not providing the money to actually make it. Under a Gov. McDonnell, transportation advocates would waste four years clawing their way over, under and around barriers erected by the state's top elected official.
Let me take a slight diversion - several Virginia bloggers have commented about how the image of the chain-link fence and of clawing their way over, under and around barriers erected by the state's top elected official would make a powerful visual to an ad using the endorsement. Except I have been told the Deeds campaign will run only positive ads in the final 9 days. I wonder if some of the content of the endorsements might change their minds. Certainly I can imagine radio ads in Tidewater run at drive time when people are trapped in traffic, hammering on these images.
Returning to the Pilot's endorsement, they are very blunt about some things that have driven many Virginia Democrats batty:
There is no denying Deeds' sincerity and his will to move Virginia forward. But if his chaotic campaign is a measure of his executive skills, a Deeds administration is likely to yield trying moments.
But even while describing McDonnell as having "superior management and negotiating skills" the editorial undercuts that by immediately saying
but the Republican has too often flinched in the face of push-back from absolutists within his party.
They call McDonnell's willingness to let local voters raise taxes for transportation - a position the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously found unconstitutional - his "boldest hour" then slam him by writing
this year, he has retreated even from that feeble stand.
that feeble stand The paper concludes its examination of McDonnell's proposals on transportation (which in Tidewater is, as it is in NoVa, the biggest single issue) with this:
The most redeeming quality of his transportation plan is its utter inability to win passage in the legislature.
There are more hits on McDonnell, and rather than reinvent the wheel, let me simply reproduce what I posted at Blue Commonwealth.
His plan to privatize state liquor stores has merit, but he admits his estimate of $500 million in revenues "in the near term" may be optimistic. Even if correct, that amount alone won't build even one of Hampton Roads' priority projects, much less address statewide needs.
McDonnell's inability to resist divisive social issues could result in real harm to law-abiding Virginians with whom he should have no quarrel.
His actions as attorney general suggest a troubling eagerness to water down gun control measures and interfere in private church matters.
interfere in private church matters: for those who do not get that reference, McDonnell filed on behalf of breakaway Episcopal parishes in NoVa. So much for separation of Church and State, even in the limited form argued by some conservatives of protecting the Church from the State.
McDonnell may be a more persuasive leader, but he is asking Virginia to follow him down a dead-end road.
-- taking a supposed strength and undercutting with a wicked assessment, that Bob is asking Virginia to follow him down a dead-end road - that applies both to his "ideas" on transportation and his insistence on an agenda formed by his personal social conservatism.
If Deeds is elected and breaks his promise to pass an adequately funded transportation plan, that failure will fall directly on his shoulders. He's not asking that accountability be passed to future governors or postponed for more prosperous times. He's willing to take on that responsibility here and now.
In return for that commitment, we give him our support.
Not a ringing endorsement of Deeds. A clear unendorsement, or if you will, "disendorsement", of the agenda McDonnell has proposed.
There are specific things in this editorial that the Deeds campaign can use. One would hope that at a minimum the key points are given to Obama to use some in his remarks on Tuesday - that will amplify the power of the editorial.
It is not clear the Deeds campaign has the money to fully capitalize on the positive endorsements, and as noted above, the campaign's current intention to close all positive would seem to preclude using the editorial slams on McDonnell, although I could imagine, finances allowing, some direct mail pieces emphasizing those points even as the broadcast ads stay positive.
Will any of this make a difference? Who knows? Still, it is worth noting that the conditions necessary for Deeds to pull things out are coming in to play. International paper is closing a plant in Franklin, in Isle of Wight County, in the Tidewater area. Deeds went to the plant to talk with the workers, McDonnell did not. Deeds proposes expanding unemployment compensation in areas especially hard-hit, as Franklin will be, while McDonnell supported the Republicans in the House of Delegates who opposed any expansion of unemployment benefits. Mark Warner has been out campaigning with Deeds. Tim Kaine will join Deeds and Obama in Norfolk on Tuesday.
It is not over YET. It is an uphill battle. But if identified Democratic voters can be persuaded to turn out - and the material from the editorials and the plant closing in Franklin can help - this race is still winnable.
Just an observation from one Virginian.
UPDATE worth noting that in the Attorney General contest 4 years ago the Pilot endorsed McDonnell over Deeds. Thus their endorsement of Deeds this time carries an especial weight, remembering that McDonnell represented their circulation area in the House of Delegates.