Republican Bob McDonnell won Virginia's governor race today, becoming the second Catholic governor of Virginia, the Associated Press reports. Outgoing Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine became the first.
The former state attorney general defeated Democratic candidate, R. Creigh Deeds, who attempted to slam McDonnell for his 1989 master's thesis while attending Regent University. McDonnell had described working women and feminists as "detrimental" to the family. Deeds's strategy didn't work, the Washington Postwrites.
The strategy appeared to work for a time, as polls tightened. But McDonnell fought back with a series of TV spots featuring supportive testimonials from his daughter, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, and a gallery of professional women who had worked for him in the attorney general's office. Increasingly, voters said they saw Deeds's campaign as a largely negative one that failed to define his own vision for the state.
The Post also reports that McConnell was careful not to alienate independents or Democrats, praising President Obama for promoting charter schools and fatherhood.
Although known for a social conservatism deeply informed by his religious faith during his 14 years as a delegate representing Virginia Beach, during the gubernatorial campaign McDonnell studiously avoided controversial such social issues as abortion, immigration and gun rights, largely neutralizing the Democrats' effort to portray him as an extremist with a stealth agenda.
The New York Timesreports that McDonnell kept his distance from the further right end of his party. Ian Urbina writes, "When the conservative activist Ralph Reed sponsored robo-calls to voters featuring former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska asking them to vote their values, Mr. McDonnell's campaign declined to answer questions about the calls and emphasized that the campaign had not asked Ms. Palin to make them."