Unfortunately for us, the Deeds campaign freaked out and read these polls wrong over the summer. Instead of attempting to energize more young and minority voters to the polls to make the electorate more representative of Virginia–they began running a campaign targeted to the people already planning to vote. Creigh began bashing federal Democratic priorities like “Cap and Trade” and health care reform to appeal to the conservatives that were headed to the polls.
And every time he did it, polls indicated turnout shriveled even further among Democrats and progressive voters–making the electorate even older, whiter, and more conservative. To which Creigh responded to by bashing federal Democrats more–which resulted in even more progressives becoming disengaged. Over and over, the cycle continued. Over the last six weeks, PPP polls indicated the share of the electorate that identified as Democrats declined from 38% to 31%. In other words almost one out of every five self-identified Democrats planning to vote on Labor Day has since then looked at Creigh Deeds and his conservative message, and decided they weren’t voting. Ouch!
I doubt Deeds could have won even if he hadn't run away from the Democratic base, so in this case it may not have made much of a difference, but in many 2010 races it probably will. Be interesting to see what lessons Democratic political "professionals" draw from this, and how they apply them next year.