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Deeds Wins Va. Governor Democratic Primary

(AP Photo/Steve Helber)
State senator Creigh Deeds became the Democratic nominee for governor of Virginia Tuesday night after upsetting the well-funded former Clinton campaign official, Terry McAuliffe, and former state representative Brian Moran, brother of U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va.

With 70 percent of the votes counted, Deeds had 50 percent to McAuliffe's 26 percent and Moran's 24 percent.

Turnout is expected to be a paltry 5 or 6 percent, so it would be a stretch to talk about large-scale implications as a result of this primary.

But Deeds' victory does indicate that Virginians weren't sold on McAuliffe, who the Los Angeles Times described today as "a force of nature" and was considered the frontrunner until about a week ago as polls started showing a Deeds surge.

McAuliffe dominated media coverage and the TV ad wars. He raised $7 million (about as much as Deeds and Moran combined) campaigned with close friend Bill Clinton, and had a nationally experienced campaign staff. However, his well-oiled machine and his position as an "outsider" were turned against him.

Of that $7 million, nearly 70 percent of that was from out-of-state, an issue used by his opponents who argued his non-Virginian donors would have too much influence.

Deeds, meantime, was the only Democrat not from the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., making him attractive to voters in other well-populated parts of the state such as Richmond, Roanoke and Norfolk.

Even though he isn't a Northern Virginia native, Deeds still had strong showings in the heavily populated Fairfax County (he was way ahead of McAuliffe - who was running third - with 36 percent of the vote counted in McAuliffe's home base) and Alexandria City (a respectable 32 percent to Moran's 55 percent in Moran's home base).

Deeds focused on his overall moderate views - receiving late criticism from his opponents for his pro-gun votes - and argued that he would be a better match for the Republican nominee, former state attorney general Bob McDonnell. He was the first one to jump into the race last year, is a tireless campaigner, and received the endorsement of the Washington Post.

Deeds faces the conservative McDonnell, who didn't run in a primary but was nominated on May 30 at the state GOP convention. The Democrat will have to play catch-up in the fund-raising game as McDonnell is sitting on around $5 million. As of June 1, Deeds had just over $500,000 on hand and a good chunk of that was most likely spent in the run-up to today's primary, especially countering McAuliffe's heavy TV ad buy in the expensive Washington, D.C. market.

Interestingly, the Deeds-McDonnell matchup is a grudge match. McDonnell defeated Deeds in 2005 for state attorney general by 323 votes.

The Democrats are looking to make it three-wins-in-a-row in Virginia gubernatorial races following now-Sen. Mark Warner's victory in 2001 and Gov. Tim Kaine's in 2005.

Virginia has trended Democratic in recent elections - Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., narrowly defeated incumbent Sen. George Allen, R-Va., in 2006; Warner replaced the retiring Sen. John Warner, R-Va., last year and Barack Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Virginia since LBJ won in 1964.

Republicans are trying to stem that trend, which is reflective of their problems nationwide. McDonnell, as one of two Republicans running in statewide races this year (Chris Christie in the New Jersey governors race is the other) bears a heavy burden: a win will be touted by his party as a fortune-changing event; a loss, especially if he and Christie lose, potentially brings another year of soul-searching for the GOP.

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