Whenever I read the words, "You're not from around here, are you?" I automatically imagine them being said with a serious Southern--or at least rural--twang. This election year in
Ever since 2001, when their successful gubernatorial candidate Mark Warner commissioned a bluegrass campaign song and sponsored a NASCAR team as part of his "rural strategy," Virginia Democrats have been preoccupied with winning over rural voters, especially in
Just consider their last three successful Democratic statewide candidates. Yes, Warner did spend a lot of time and effort courting rural voters in 2001, to the extent that he became the first Democrat in years to win a majority (albeit a slim one) of the state's rural vote. But more than half of his 96,000-vote margin of victory over Republican opponent Mark Earley came from his 50,000-vote lead in
To be sure, none of these candidates campaigned as
Unfortunately for Deeds, his Republican opponent, Bob McDonnell, hasn't made any similar sorts of blunders. Indeed, his whole campaign--with its emphasis on economic issues and its efforts to avoid any hot-button culture war topics--has been designed to win over voters in Northern Virginia, which is where McDonnell is actually from (a fact he never forgets to mention in his TV ads that air in the D.C. media market). Deeds, by contrast, has been unable to count on the voters in his backyard, since not even his local roots and conservative stances will be enough to convince many of them to pull the lever for a Democrat in 2009. All the while, he's been forced to try to make inroads in a part of the state where voters seem inherently skeptical of anyone with his type of accent. Indeed, the lesson for Virginia Democrats, it seems, is that "authenticity"--long thought to be the coin of the realm in rural America--may actually be a bigger deal in the ‘burbs. Next time, they'd be better off getting a candidate like Warner--a tech millionaire who pretends to be a farmer--than an actual farmer.