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Creigh Deeds Has A Mule Named Harry S. Truman

June 10, 2009

This is a race worthy of watching.   It will tell much about the state of the Democratic Party, and the weakness of the GOP.

Creigh Deeds, a longtime state senator from rural Virginia, crushed two opponents Tuesday to win the Democratic nomination for governor in the race this fall — a contest that will draw national attention as an early indicator of how Democrats are faring in the Obama era.  

The primary results were a brutal repudiation of the most famous man in the race: former Democratic National Committee Chairman and Clinton family friend Terry McAuliffe, who until recent days was widely seen as in command of the race. 

In the end, he wasn’t in command, and it was not even close. Deeds, who is from tiny Bath County and owns a mule named Harry S Truman, beat McAuliffe and former state Del. Brian Moran by a roughly 2-1 ratio. 

Deeds won the right to take on former state Attorney General Bob McDonnell, a Republican who is trying to reverse a trend in which the traditionally conservative Old Dominion has voted for Democrats twice in a row this decade. 

The contest comes freighted with personal drama: Four years ago, Deeds lost the attorney general’s race to McDonnell by just 323 votes. 

It most likely will also carry a national echo. Virginia governors’ races, like New Jersey’s, always attract attention from political devotees because they are one of the few games in town in odd-numbered years.

In this case, the Virginia race will also be a test of whether the political tide that swept in a Democratic congressional majority in 2006 and gave Barack Obama the presidency in 2008 still retains its power. 

The current governor, Tim Kaine, is also Obama’s handpicked DNC chairman, and he will be working hard to avoid an electoral black eye in his home state. 

But Republicans nationally are hoping that the ambitious agenda of Obama’s first year will start a backlash against one-party rule in Washington that will have its first rumblings in a purple-state like Virginia. If so, the result might spell trouble for first- and second-term House Democrats who won in conservative districts over the past few years.

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