Underdog Dem Poses Challenge in Three-Way Virginia Governor Primary

The Virginia gubernatorial primary is looking like a classic come-from-behind scenario, with the most conservative of the three Democratic candidates surging at just the right moment. 

With the Democratic primary election set for Tuesday, Virginia state lawmaker Creigh Deeds has come from way behind to snag endorsements and lead most polls in just about every region of the commonwealth. 

Deeds is less liberal than his rivals, but that could help Democrats in the general election against the popular Republican candidate, former state Attorney General Bob McDonnell

"It turns out that the candidate who was last may end up being first, almost biblically," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "Creigh Deeds has moved from last place into first place in almost all of the surveys that have been taken and he has done it, he has surged, because he is seen as the most elect-able Democrat of the three." 

Deeds got a boost from the endorsement of the Washington Post editorial page two weeks ago. Lacking deep campaign pockets, he hasn't run as many ads as his rivals. 

Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and Clinton family ally, started as the early front-runner. But the former top fundraiser and adviser for both Bill and Hillary Clinton has seen a huge lead vanish. 

McAuliffe out-raised his rivals by millions and outspent them by more than three-to-one, but he lacks deep Virginia roots and saw his support vanish when the attack ads from his rivals began. 

One ad from Brian Moran, a former Virginia delegate, accused McAuliffe of having "made a fortune investing, sometimes in companies that went bust." 

Moran is running as the most liberal of the three Democrats and needs a big turnout in the northern Virginia suburbs outside Washington to pull ahead. 

"I feel real good. You know, the polls have been very volatile -- we're right where we need to be," Moran said. "We're making the phone calls and getting the message out. That's what I need to do. When people look at our records and our vision for Virginia, they choose me."  

Recent polls suggest undecided voters make up between 10 and 20 percent in the race. But there is a common concern among Democrats about electability against McDonnell, the Republican who beats all three Democratic candidates in current head-to-head polls.