(CNN) – Amid some controversy, President Barack Obama returns to the campaign trail Tuesday afternoon in Virginia to lend a helping hand to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds.
The president teams up with Deeds at a rally in Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. The event comes just hours after the release of a new poll that suggests Deeds trails his Republican rival Bob McDonnell by double digits, with a week to go until election day.
The rally also comes just a few days after negative quotes about Deeds from anonymous Obama administration officials appeared Friday in the Washington Post. Unnamed administration officials told the paper that if Deeds loses, it will be his own fault for shunning White House advice and not doing enough to embrace Obama on the campaign trail.
Asked Monday if the White House has been happy with the Deeds campaign, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said "that's not for me to pass judgment on."
A well-known Democratic strategist in Virginia, David "Mudcat" Saunders, blasted the White House for placing anonymous quotes in the Washington Post. Saunders told CNN Friday that trying to blame Deeds is "bulls**t" when Democrats around the country are "just tired of politics."
According to a Washington Post poll released Monday night, 55 percent of likely Virginia voters say they back McDonnell, the state's former attorney general, with 44 percent supporting Deeds, a state senator from the rural western part of the state. McDonnell's 11-point advantage is up from an 9-point margin last month.
The survey indicates that McDonnell holds double-digit advantages on such issues at the economy, taxes, and transportation - and now leads Deeds for the first time in this campaign on issues of special concern to women.
According to the poll, McDonnell leads among independent voters 61 percent to 36 percent. Deeds is ahead by 7 points in northern Virginia, a stronghold for Democrats, but the poll suggests he trails in every other region across the state.
The president's appearance with Deeds Tuesday will be the second time Obama has teamed up with his fellow Democrat. But seven in 10 people questioned say the president won't be a factor in their vote. Only three in 10 say their perceptions of Obama will influence their vote.
Last November, Obama became the first Democrat to win Virginia in a presidential election in 40 years, thanks in part to an outpouring of excitement among younger voters and minority voters. But the poll suggests Deeds hasn't been able excite supporters this time around, with just 22 percent of his backers saying they are very enthusiastic about his candidacy. Nearly four in 10 McDonnell supporters say they are very enthusiastic.
The race is to succeed current Gov. Tim Kaine, who's term limited and prevented from running for re-election. Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, acknowledged Friday a "challenging" environment for Democrats in his home state but held out hope that his party's gubernatorial nominee could still rally the voters who helped President Obama win Virginia last November. Kaine also downplayed the anonymous quotes from administration officials in the Washington Post.
While the contest in Virginia focuses on state issues and the two candidates themselves, it's also seen by some as an early ballot box test, or referendum, on the Obama White House and the policies they're pushing.
"The race in Virginia is partially about the broad national environment, how the two political parties are doing, and how the president is doing," said Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report.
McDonnell's campaign appears to be trying to nationalize the contest, by linking Deeds to the Democrats who control the White House and Congress. A McDonnell television ad says "Creigh Deeds supports Washington's job killing policies."
"I have made the national issues an issue in this race," McDonnell told CNN's Jessica Yellin.
At a debate last month, Deeds was asked by the moderator if he was a Barack Obama Democrat.
"I would try to escape that by saying I'm a Creigh Deeds Democrat," responded Deeds, who also acknowledges that "a lot of what's going on in Washington has made it very tough."
If they win back the governor's office, "the Republicans could now show they are alive and well and they are competitive in Virginia, but it also sends a national message about the Republicans' ability to come back in the Obama era," says Mark Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University in Virginia.
CNN's Peter Hamby contributed to this report