Controversial social issues will come thundering into the race for Virginia governor this week, as Democrat Creigh Deeds is set to challenge Republican Bob McDonnell on abortion.
Deeds will announce Monday a women’s coalition and is expected to use the stage to highlight differences between himself and McDonnell. Deeds supports abortion, McDonnell does not.
The strategy marks a significant moment in the campaign which had been focused primarily on the economy, education and transportation.
At their first debate, Deeds and McDonnell each claimed the other was “outside the mainstream” on the issue of abortion, although both seemed to indicate that the topic wouldn’t take center stage in this campaign.
GOP surrogates are already painting the new push as an effort to distract voters.
“It’s clear that he’d rather debate anything but the issues that are on the top of most Virginia voters’ minds right now,” said Ed Gillespie, McDonnell’s campaign chairman, in an e-mail.
Republicans also claim that the effort is designed to help Deeds gain ground in the polls. McDonnell led Deeds in three separate surveys released last week.
Deeds’ spokesman, Jared Leopold disagreed with that premise, saying “We’ve been raising the stark differences on choice all along.”