By Reid Wilson - 08/06/09 08:13 PM EDT
Obama appeared at a fundraiser and rally for state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D) in McLean Thursday night, calling the Democratic nominee "the right person for Virginia."
Recent polls have showed Deeds losing ground to former Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell (R). The latest, a Research 2000 poll for the liberal DailyKos website, showed McDonnell leading 51 percent to 43 percent.
Obama won the Old Dominion's electoral votes in 2008, but lately his poll numbers have been sinking there. More than half of Virginians, 51 percent, view Obama favorably, while 44 percent say they have an unfavorable view of the president.
And Obama acknowledged that, while Virginia has sent two Democrats to the Senate over the past two cycles, Virginia is still a purple state.
While Virginia is “moving in the right direction, it is still a purple state,” Obama said at the fundraiser before the speech. The “key right now is making sure we fight through the doubt, fight through the cynicism.”
"Let's be honest, this is going to be a tough race," Obama said.
Obama's falling approval ratings have corresponded with McDonnell's improved poll numbers. And that, to political observers, should come as no surprise.
"For better or worse, the president is perceived as being the leader of [his] party, and as goes fortunes of that presidential leader, often go the political fortunes of the people below them," said Michael McDonald, a political scientist at George Mason University.
"These poll numbers are reflective of bad moods, one against Democrats, the other against the incumbent party in Virginia itself," McDonald said. Deeds is running to become Virginia's third consecutive Democratic governor. Both of his would-be predecessors, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Gov. Tim Kaine (D), joined Deeds at the rally.
"We need to build on what Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have already started here in Virginia – and what President Obama has the vision to advocate across the nation," Deeds said, according to prepared remarks released by the campaign.
Deeds has embraced Obama to a large extent, but he has refused to get on board with Obama's latest initiative. Last month, Deeds did not show up at a town hall meeting Obama held in Northern Virginia focused on healthcare. Deeds has not endorsed Democratic efforts to reform the nation's healthcare system.
In his speech, Deeds focused on education, his signature initiative during his time in the state legislature. He did not mention healthcare.
Though the Democratic nominee will reap the benefits of an incumbent president as he seeks to make up a fundraising disadvantage. Deeds raised more than McDonnell in June, the last month for which reports are available, pulling in $3.4 million to McDonnell's $1.8 million.
But because Deeds had to get through a competitive primary, he ended the month with about half of McDonnell's bank balance.