WASHINGTON (CNN) - Virginia's two gubernatorial candidates clashed Thursday over a mix of state and national issues in a televised debate that saw Democrat Creigh Deeds distance himself from President Obama and Republican Bob McDonnell continue to fight back against charges that he's a divisive social conservative.
It was the second of four scheduled debates in the Virginia governor's race.
Deeds was asked directly if he considers himself an "Obama Democrat." The state senator from rural Bath County paused before saying he is proud to have the president's support, but would prefer to describe himself as "a Creigh Deeds Democrat."
He said he has expressed concerns to the president over the Employee Free Choice Act, health care legislation, and the size of the national debt.
Deeds was also questioned on whether he believes some criticism of the president is motivated by racism. He called Joe Wilson's outburst on the House floor last week "unprecedented" and said: "Clearly there's a hint of racism in some of the opposition to Barack Obama, that is crystal clear."
McDonnell, meanwhile, once again found himself on the defensive over his 20-year-old master's thesis, in which he criticized working women as "detrimental" to healthy families.
Deeds said McDonnell wants to restrict abortion rights and opposes contraceptive counseling for married couples. McDonnell, who wrote the thesis when he was 34 years old, said his views have changed, and that the campaign should be about economic issues, not social ones.
He pointed to the female staffers he hired when he became Virginia attorney general in 2006, and to his own family - particularly his daughter Jeanine, who served as an Army lieutenant in Iraq.
"Creigh, there you go again," McDonnell said, attempting to channel Ronald Reagan. "I'm frankly pretty insulted that you would say that my daughter, that I supported and loved for 28 years to go fight in Iraq, that I don't support women."
The topic of transportation funding consumed much of the debate, which was sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and took place in the state's most populous county, where one in seven voters reside.
McDonnell promised to not raise taxes and said he could find ways to fund transportation with some "innovative" ideas, such as his proposal to sell off Virginia's state-run liquor stores, which he said would raise millions.
Asked why he opposed former Democratic governor Mark Warner's 2004 bipartisan budget legislation - a tax hike that rescued the state budget and is regarded as having saved the Virginia's bond rating - McDonnell replied that he is simply against raising taxes.
Deeds seemed to hedge on whether he plans to raise taxes for transportation. "No, I'm not going to raise taxes," he said. But he quickly added, "I am the only person on this dais who will sign a transportation plan that raises new money."
After the debate, the McDonnell campaign released a new TV ad accusing his rival of having no plan for transportation.
Both men paid homage to the voters and business leaders of northern Virginia, who hold significant economic and political sway in the state. Deeds called northern Virginia "the cash cow that feeds the state." McDonnell called the region "the Internet capital of the world."
That's why I want McDonnell...because he'll make sure that my wife and daughters are second class citizens. He wrote the Thesis when he was 34, so it wasn't the work of some immature 20 year old...it was the work of a genius who wanted to keep women in the kitchen and his state in the dark ages. Thats what I want, a guy like that in charge of me!
I imagine there will be even more democrats running for office that will be distancing themselves from Obama.
OKAY – Creigh – you almost crossed a thin line but you recovered yourself – you are no different from other Democrats at this time that do not fully agree with President Obama – which is a good thing!!! On another note – don't forget about those from CENTRAL VIRGINIA – our vote counts too!!!
AND ronald McDonnell – just because you support your daughter for going to IRAQ – does not mean you support WOMEN!!! You support an ALL AMERICAN that happens to be your daughter but not ALL AMERICANS agree on your position for WOMEN!!!
"Asked why he opposed former Democratic governor Mark Warner's 2004 bipartisan budget agreement — a tax hike that rescued the state budget and is regarded as having saved the state's bond rating — McDonnell replied that he is simply against raising taxes."
You forgot to mention that the tax led to a $2Billion surplus the state didn't need (the state had actually met its budget by years end without the tax hike), and that the surplus was spent on additional programs in the state since the government couldn't return it to the taxpayers. You might want to go back, research the issue, and edit that sentence for accuracy.
Deeds' campaign is about lying and distancing himself from his party's president. Sign me up! actually, no thanks!
Republicans better leave Obama alone
Anyone want to know why
Yesterday at situation room last question from Wolf Blitzer to RNC Chairman Michael Steele is the answer
Deed's is done thanks to Timmy Kaine.
Hedging his bets. Interesting.
C'mon, no claims of racism in this debate? What is wrong with you people.
Just because McDonnell has a daughter who served in Iraq Doesn't mean he supports women's rights. So because I have two sons in the USMC I'm quailified for what? They are the Marines, as McDonnell's daughter is the woman. What a scam artist – stupid twisted logic that appeals to the smooth brain crowd.
The truth is McDonnell does follow a very narrow interpretation of the bible which in the past he has tried to blend with political and social issues to impose his beliefs on others.
He pals around the "Center of Religious Intolerance" that is Regent Club 700 (Pat Robertson) campus of backward thought. McDonnell and Cuccinelli hang out there all the time, along with the Ameriprise guy who is running for political office in Va Beach. Talk about the "nest" on C Street, those guys are a joke compared to Pat Robertsons "cave of neanderthals".
If the folks of Virginia put McDonnell in that position, they will fall beneath the level of South Carolina with their blow-hard right-wing fringe nuts.
Good comeback by McDonnell. This is why I'm supporting him over Deeds. Deeds is too wishy washy and his campaign is very mean spirited. I live in Reston, VA and already have my McDonnell sign up. I hope fellow Virginians will join me in supporting McDonnell.
McDonnell is desperately trying to divert from his far-right bias against working women. That had nothing to do with his daughter (nice try at Palinism), but rather McDonnell's fundamentalism against others who do not fit his narrow view of social theocracy. No thanks.
Our country has had enough of the fundamentalist extremes and the problems McDonnell's ideology creates.
Deeds is by far more moderate in his governing approach for VA.
AHHHHH Deeds is a Jeffersonian.
Great, so we've got a person who will refuse to do something good for our state for ideological reasons. Perhaps we should listen to him and abolish taxes all together. Who needs police, fire fighters, safe roads to drive on, public schools, state universies, or anything else that taxes pay for? This sounds like the canidate for me!
Neither Virginia nor the rest of the country needs to have more right wing religious freaks tryiong to foist their beliefs off on everyone else. This McDonnell character is a perfect example of one of these fanatics pretending to be otherwise, like Jeb Bush did. Let me ktell you, it will be a decade before Florida recovers from that guy, if we EVER do.
Deeds is attempting the same old democrat trick...trying to be all things to all people. Sorry...it wont work. And call the "Employee Free Choice Act" by its real name, "Card Check", if you truly are concerned about it. There is no "free choice" even remotely associated with it.
So while Deeds is Obama's lapdog, another spend, borrow and tax left fringer, the focus on McDonnel is over a paper he wrote 20 years ago.
Face it Virginia, Deeds is going to go to Washington and vote to increase your taxes and remove your jobs.
CNN Stop trying to create controversy! MORAL OF THE STORY: Be Yourself! Don't try to be someone else. You'll fail every time.
Good for you Creigh! We support you too!
Mr. Deeds better watch his words, Obama is still very popular. One iffy comment and it may cost him.