In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Wilder: If McDonnell Wins, 'Virginia Won't Sink Into The Seas'

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Newscom / Al Stephenson

Wilder's criticism of Deeds, trailing badly to McDonnell, has mostly been about the Democrat's opposition to his signature "one handgun per month" law that he championed as governor in the 1990s.

Wilder thinks the law led to a decrease in crime over the years and that's why he withheld an endorsement both this year and in the original Deeds vs. McDonnell battle for the 2005 attorney generals race. (McDonnell won by 323 votes.)

But Wilder also doesn't like that Deeds has said tax increases are on the table to fix Virginia's transportation problems.

"I'm very concerned about that," Wilder said.

Wilder said since he rebuffed President Obama's call asking him to back Deeds, he hasn't asked a second time. "He's a man who respects the integrity of my decision," he said.

The former governor who also served as mayor of Richmond until recently, said the election in part is a referendum on the ailing economy.

"The public is not stupid. They know they don't have jobs," he said.

I've known Wilder a long time, and his penchant for drama isn't lost on me. He grins when people remind him that he stood with former Republican governors George Allen and Jim Gilmore in winter 2004 to criticize the tax increase proposed by then-Gov. Mark Warner (which Deeds backed and McDonnell opposed).

In 2005 he basked in the spotlight when he endorsed Tim Kaine (D) for governor, and went along with the candidate on a momentum tour. The same thing happened in 2006 when Wilder (after hemming and hawing) backed Jim Webb (D) for the U.S. Senate. He was on the stump last fall with Obama.

In our interview, I reminded Wilder this would be the first election he's sat out in a long while.

"When I do endorse a candidate, I get out there for them and I stay out there for them," he said.

So, will Wilder be missing the action and change his mind in the next two weeks?

"Saying 'never' is a bad word, but I'm not so inclined to believe that would be the case, and I have not seen that circumstance arise," he said.

And I don't think anyone would argue with my point that he enjoys being in the headlines. I won't fall over from shock if Wilder shows up with Deeds a week before the race and tries to play the hero who saves a sagging campaign. Then again, Wilder likes to back the winning horse, and I have yet to find a Democrat confident Deeds can pull it off.

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