Virginia Campaign for Governor: Brought to You by the Washington Post

There are two gubernatorial races going on right now in the state of Virginia. There is the real one in which Republican Bob McDonnell is running a disciplined, issue-filled campaign against  once-promising Democrat Creigh Deeds, who is running a Seinfeld-like campaign about nothing. And there is the campaign going on in the pages of the Washington Post, whose endorsement of Deeds helped vault him over better-known challengers in the primary. The two have nothing to do with one another, one more piece of evidence that the last place you should look to find out what is going on is the mainstream media.

The Post of course has declared the top issue to be a 20-year-old college thesis by McDonnell in which he expressed all sorts of highly out of fashion views on topics such as gays and working women. The Post then proceeded over a two-week span to milk the story, reciting and re-circulating the claims. When it was forced to report the real campaign, it cast McDonnell's focus on bread and butter issues as an effort to get away from the “real” issue -- the Post’s fixation with the thesis. The Weekly Standard’s parody mocking the Post’s thesis fetish blurred the line between fact and fiction when the very next day after running a mock-up of the Post ("Post Runs Another Story About Its McDonnell Story"), the actual Post ran a story headlined: “McDonnell Changes Topic Amid Thesis Issue.” How dare he!

As Gary Andres commented:

Never mind that McDonnell -- the state's former attorney general -- premised his campaign on inclusion, pragmatism, and competence, not social issues. Or that he spent 14 years compiling a record in the state's House of Delegates. Or that the suburban Northern Virginia native offers detailed solutions to front-porch concerns such as improving schools, reducing traffic congestion, and bringing jobs to the state. Deeds might not catch up on those issues. So a caricature that sends shivers through minivan-driving suburban swing voters is just what is needed. Paint McDonnell as a right-wing, anti-abortion, Bible-thumper. And call on the Post -- always a reliable ally of Virginia Democrats -- to provide the bullets for political character assassination.

Following the Post’s campaign direction, Deeds began to raise the issue and run ads on the invented “issue” – which the Post dutifully reported on. Ah, further evidence that the campaign is now about McDonnell’s term paper and not his public record or his opponent’s. Except for the scant evidence that voters cared about the issue, the Post might have had a point.