Sunday, November 15, 2009

More about how bad the Deeds campaign was

I nearly went to this event--I'm glad I skipped it:
Long before the Westin Hotel served as scene for a downer Deeds post-election prom, there was another party. It was held on a warm summertime evening at the home of a well-connected Richmond couple on Cherokee Road. The couple, which asked to remain anonymous, was hosting a Deeds meet-and-greet for potential big-money campaign supporters and volunteers.

Though the candidate's attendance was promised, Deeds never showed.

"They brought in a bunch of prominent people all based on the idea that Deeds would be there," says a longtime party fundraiser who attended the event.

"It's kind of funky to go to a party expecting to get the gubernatorial candidate and you get a 19-year-old girl instead — wearing flip-flops. I don’t know her exact age, but she was powerful young. It was quite disconcerting."

In addition to her lack of proper footwear, she arrived without literature, bumper stickers or yard signs. "I was horrified when I saw her," says a woman who attended the event. "The people who were there were well-known volunteers. Not only was it disappointing, it was embarrassing."
The story above is from an article in this week's Style Weekly, and it illustrates perfectly what went wrong with the Deeds campaign. The movers and shakers who had been invited to this fundraiser had been expecting Deeds himself. Instead they got a 19-year old girl who didn't have the sense (or experience) to dress properly. Even more telling, to me at least, was the fact that she showed up empty handed, without any visibility swag: yard signs, bumper stickers, and literature.

Political reporters and pundits are spinning all kinds of stories about whether this election was a referendum on Obama or if it points to some kind of tectonic shift in the political landscape of Virginia. In doing so they are ignoring the simple obvious truth: Creigh Deeds couldn't campaign his way out of a wet paper bag. Furthermore, people who can campaign well apparently make Creigh Deeds uncomfortable, so he tends to avoid them and surrounds himself with other people who can't campaign their way out of paper bags.

There's so much wrong with this scenario it beggars the mind. Sometimes when I am confronted with this kind of catastrophe the only way I can make sense of it is to make a list, try and break down all the different elements. Let's see what went wrong here.

1. The candidate no-showed a crowd of wealthy people who were potential donors to his campaign, thereby offending them.

2. Having already offended said donors by no-showing, Deeds then sent the most junior person on his campaign staff instead of rounding up a respectable (and respected) stand-in, and as a result the offended donors now feel insulted.

3. Instead of being dressed properly in a business suit or skirt and blouse (dressed as if she was going to a business meeting, which is precisely where she was going) the person Deeds sent was dressed inappropriately, heaping more insult on top of the would be donors.

4. The young, inappropriately-dressed surrogate showed up empty-handed when she should have brought lots of swag. Along with the donors, there were probably a lot of local activists in the room as well, people like me who tend to donate a lot of time and experience, as opposed to money. When the Deeds representative showed up empty handed, these people no doubt looked at each other and thought the same thing: "this campaign doesn't have its shit together." Did the young lady forget and leave them at the office? Was she too inexperienced to know she should bring them? Or did someone else forget to order them? Or did someone fail to ship the supplies from Deeds' headquarters in Charlottesville?

When you consider all the implications suggested by the failure of this event (and others, like Deeds' failure to make a showing at the Carytown Watermelon Festival), then you begin to realize that there's no reason to get into ideology or Barack Obama or any other esoteric explanation for Deeds' failure.

Bob McDonnell and his campaign team demonstrated that they were skillful, well-organized, and hardworking campaigners. They were matched against a Deeds campaign that quite simply couldn't tie its own shoelaces. It's really just as simple as that.


Randy said...

So- between the AG's race between these same two gentlemen and the governor's race, Deeds suddenly became an political idiot?


Of course- what does that say about the Democratic Party in VA- that apparently no capable people stepped in to give their candidate a badly needed "Come to Jesus" heart-to-heart?
Because if your take on this is correct- and I respect your political skills and intelligence-then it should have been clear to the party that Deeds needed "serious adult" help- and either the party failed to offer it or Deeds failed to accept it when offered.

J.C. Wilmore said...

Thanks Randy, these are some good questions.

Well, first and foremost you need to understand that the governor's race really is the marquee race. Almost all the money and attention goes to the governor's race. The Attorney General and Lt. Governor candidates are very dependent on the gubernatorial candidate and the way he or she runs their campaign.

In 2005 Kaine was the gubernatorial candidate and he ran a very solid campaign. Deeds was able to coast along on Kaine's coat tails and campaigned a lot less.

I remember in 2005 that Deeds showed almost no interest in getting his yard signs out. I wish I'd made that connection before I supported Deeds in the primary.

In 2009, when Deeds was at the top of the ticket and the marquee candidate, this lack of skill, effort, organization, and hustle was largely responsible for the Democratic disaster.

As for a "coming to Jesus," it is rumored that Obama and Kaine both dropped hints. Also the Democratic netroots (myself included) began waving red flags. Deeds just ignored any advice he got.

At one point it was rumored that Deeds' campaign manager was being demoted or pushed aside and there was a glimmer of hope. No such luck: the campaign manager basically shut down the campaign for three days while he tried to convince the press he was still in charge. A complete waste of time, throwing away three days of campaign narrative on a topic that had nothing to do with the candidate.

No one realized how bad it was until it was too late: once Deeds had the nomination there was no way back.