Lagging in the polls, Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds slammed his Republican opponent Bob McDonnell in a debate Monday night as intolerant of working women and gays, and twice accused him of lying.
McDonnell, the former Virginia attorney general, is running television ads that say Deeds will raise taxes and supports a federal cap-and-trade energy measure that would cost Virginia families thousands of dollars a year.
Deeds said the Republican is "spending literally millions of dollars lying to the people of Virginia." He repeated the accusation shortly afterward, saying McDonnell just "restated a lie."
McDonnell told reporters in a post-debate briefing that he thought Deeds' accusations were "really below the dignity of a gubernatorial campaign."
When asked, Deeds replied that perhaps he didn't choose the best words, "but the fact is, it's not true. I guess if you say it enough times, that doesn't make it any more true than it was the first time."
Deeds' aggressive style reflects the situation Democrats find themselves in three weeks from Election Day as they struggle to keep the governor's seat for a third straight four-year term.
Deeds wasted no time in going after the subject he and his ads have been harping on for weeks -- the thesis McDonnell wrote as a 34-year-old college student for his master's degree at Pat Robertson's Regent University, in which he wrote that working women are "detrimental to the family."
McDonnell stuck to the line of defense he's been countering with for weeks: "I've been married to a working woman for 33 years. ... My daughter was a platoon leader in Iraq. ... I'd say that's the ultimate working woman."
McDonnell is back on the campaign trail Tuesday, holding a "Women for McDonnell" rally in northern Virginia, an area that has been trending even more Democratic over the past few years.
McDonnell will be joined by Sheila Johnson, the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television and a Democrat who has supported President Obama and Virginia's current governor, Democrat Tim Kaine. Johnson stunned Virginia political watchers recently by choosing to back McDonnell over Deeds.
She found herself in a bit of controversy last week as she apologized for pretending to stutter at a campaign event as she mimicked Deeds.
Johnson told a small crowd that Virginia needed a governor "who can really communicate, and Bob McDonnell can communicate. The other people I talk to, especially his op-op-op-o-opponent, di-di-did this all through my interview with him."
Deeds, a state senator from rural Bath County, occasionally hesitates and stumbles over words in conversation, speeches and interviews. He also jokes about his own speaking style, saying just last night, "I'm not the best speaker on this stage, but I get things done."