|(For my argument as to why Creigh should be the nominee, scroll down past the personal history.)
I've known Creigh for 5 years, a short time in a Democratic Party where activists reminisce about how they met on Jerry Baliles' 1981 AG campaign.
(And yes, it's just "Creigh." This line from Washington Post writer Fredrick Kunkle sums it up better than I can: "Across a huge swath of central-west Virginia, where mountains and farms give way to interstates and cities such as Charlottesville, he is known simply as Creigh.")
I met Creigh in April 2004 at a rubber-chicken dinner for Alan Finks, then a candidate for Harrisonburg City Council and now the chairman of the Harrisonburg Committee. He was clearly comfortable as a speaker and you could tell the energy and enthusiasm was only barely controlled. In a year when doubts abounded as to whether the presidential nominee has a pulse, Creigh's light shone white-hot.
When I learned the 2 nominees for AG were Creigh and State Sen. John Edwards, it was an easy choice. Sen. Edwards has been a strong progressive voice in the Senate, but to win statewide in Virginia, Democrats need an energetic candidate who appeals to moderate Republicans. Creigh fit the bill perfectly.
I've re-told this story before, but I e-mailed Creigh in July 2004 asking where I could send a check to help his campaign. I was in college, but I said I could give $10/month.
15 minutes later my phone rang. It was Creigh.
He remembered meeting me months before. He thanked me for my support. He asked for input. From a $10/month donor.
I was floored. I still am. Other than Howard Dean's "What I want to know ..." speech, I have never had such a positively profound experience with a politician.
(When I sent my check, I included a small note thanking Creigh for calling me and including an updated address. When I saw Creigh in December, he handed me the note, which he had kept for 4.5 years. I almost cried.)
Creigh remembered me at the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Labor Day dinner 2 months later. He remembered me when he came to Staunton to campaign before the election. He remembered me - and congratulated me on my recent marriage - when I lobbied him in the General Assembly in January 2006.
Creigh has remembered my son's name, where I live and what campaign's I've been working on. He returns phone calls and e-mails. His political advice, given to me at the Virginia Young Democrats convention in 2006, has been extremely helpful (when I've followed it). I count him as a friend.
For me, supporting Creigh is extremely personal. He and I don't see eye-to-eye on some issues; he's more conservative than I am on some things, I'm more conservative than he is on others. For those who believe some of his past votes are inexcusable, I respect that.
But we're going to pick a nominee to win an election in Virginia, and we have to approach the decision dispassionately.
Mark Warner won in 2001 by campaigning on "running government like a business." The fact that he was a Democrat, or that he lived inside the Beltway, were not issues. Warner utilized his personal wealth and over a decade spent building relationships across the Commonwealth to win.
No one would say Warner is a liberal. He says he is a "radical centrist." He wins.
Tim Kaine ran in 2005 as a moderate Democrat. In radio ads on Christian stations up and down the valley, Kaine talked about his Catholic faith and his opposition to abortion. He ran on quality of life issues like education and transportation in "exurban" areas like Loudoun and Prince William. He said he would uphold the death penalty. He won.
Back in December, I wrote on this blog about how a Virginia statewide candidate has to win 6 congressional districts in order to win overall (with the exception being Senator Webb, who squeaked by Allen).
Nothing has changed from this analysis:
I think Creigh Deeds can best emulate the Warner/Kaine model by winning the 3rd, 5th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th districts while keeping Bob McDonnell's margins low in rural areas (the 1st, 4th, 6th and 7th). I don't think any Democrat wins the 2nd against McDonnell, and Deeds did better in the 9th than in the 2nd in 2005.
I see Moran winning the 3rd, 8th, 10th and 11th districts, but falling short in the 2nd and 5th. I also don't see how he can hold McDonnell's margins in districts like the 1st, 4th, 6th and 7th.
I see McAuliffe winning the 3rd, 8th and 11th, running close in the 10th, and being hammered everywhere else.
Let me be plain: Obama won last year because of huge turnout among minorities, which will not happen again this year. The only way for a gubernatorial candidate to win as a Democrat is to be competitive (40%+) in rural areas, while winning the suburbs.
NOVA may have 25% of Virginia's voters, and McAuliffe may pour a river of gold through the Commonwealth. But there are plenty of areas in Virginia which are as red as Arlington is blue.
Democratic primary voters do not represent the average voter in Virginia, so picking a candidate based on how well they match your views isn't smart. And no amount of money can ensure a "businessman" will win an election (see: Mitt Romney).
Creigh can win over moderate Republicans. He is earnest and inspires trust. Personally he is above reproach. The only criticisms of Creigh are style-related (he doesn't speak pretty like Obama) and ideological (he's not as progressive as your average Arlington voter).
Creigh is a wonderful person and an effective candidate. He can win among moderates, and he can run strong in rural areas.
The only Beltway Democrats to win statewide recently are Warner (who had 12 years of personal relationships and investments in rural areas) and Webb (who ran on his redneck roots and whose opponent was in free fall for the last 3 months of the campaign).
I am begging Virginia Democrats to go with what works. Go with what has proven successful. Go with who can win in November.
The nominee has gotta be Creigh.