Creigh Deeds (D) and Bob McDonnell (R) spent Tuesday evening courting the critical African-American vote at a forum on the campus of Virginia Union University in Richmond.
Despite some initial disagreement about the format of the event, the two gubernatorial candidates generally avoided harsh words, favoring the gentle touch for one of Virginia’s most politically-active communities.
Both men say they recognize the importance of the black vote. It’s especially important to Deeds, who is walking the fine line of supporting President Barack Obama while trying to avoid being too closely tied to White House policy.
“I’m proud to have the president’s support,” Deeds said. “I worked hard for his election last year. I want him to be successful.”
But just last week, Deeds sidestepped a question about whether he was an “Obama Democrat,” posed during a debate in McLean. Instead, the rural state senator called himself “a Creigh Deeds Democrat.”
McDonnell, too, must have a balanced approach when dealing with the president.
McDonnell praised Mr. Obama on the issue of charter schools — a favorite talking point for McDonnell — but gave a carefully-worded answer about his concerns with the administration’s health care proposals.
Later, McDonnell said he’s actively wooing the black vote.
“I think people across all lines — political, racial lines — are concerned about jobs, the economy,” he told reporters.
The event’s importance was magnified by the anticipation ahead of former Gov. Doug Wilder’s (D) coveted endorsement.
Wilder, the nation’s first elected black governor, says he will make an announcement about who he’ll back later this week. His voice carries tremendous weight among African Americans.
McDonnell told reporters he was “absolutely” courting Wilder’s endorsement, though he added that “what Governor Wilder is going to do is certainly up to him.”
Deeds met with Wilder this week. President Obama and Gov. Tim Kaine (D) have lobbied Wilder to back Deeds.