McDonnell As VP? Va. Governor Could Help, Hinder

Ask Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell about his vice presidential ambitions and his answer is invariably, I have the best job in the world, one held by Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson.

But that job ends in 2014, as Virginia law forbids its governors from serving two consecutive terms. And his record in that position -- leading a key swing state with high approval ratings and a record of increasing jobs and decreasing deficits -- makes him an attractive candidate. Plus, as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, McDonnell has become a national party figurehead.

Some observers say McDonnell could even outperform Romney in talking about jobs and the economy, issues at the center of the presumptive nominee’s campaign and the foremost concern among voters. (Unemployment in Virginia dropped to 5.6 percent in April, down 1.7 percent since McDonnell took office in January 2010.) And he brings the military service and ties to conservative Christians that Romney lacks.

But his personal history of social conservatism -- ranging from a controversial graduate school thesis on family to the recent abortion-related ultrasound bill passed in Virginia -- may doom his prospects.

Having said that, there are still many months to go until the election. And while it’s unclear when Romney will chose a running mate, the issues happening at the time he makes that decision will be important. If jobs and the economy are still the focus of the election, McDonnell may be best positioned for the job. “You want to balance or augment the ticket with the person who is No. 2, and in a lot of ways, given that jobs and the economy are so big, you almost want to bolster that with someone that’s trusted,” says Ford O’Connell, a Virginia-based GOP strategist who worked on the McCain-Palin campaign.

McDonnell is also viewed as a polished politician who won’t overshadow Romney on the stump, and someone who piously stays on message, says O’Connell. In an age where presidential candidates might be concerned about their running mates going rogue, McDonnell is a safe choice.

The question, though, remains: Does he have to be Romney’s running mate in order to deliver Virginia, or can the GOP nominee win it with the governor just as a surrogate?

“I think Bob is loyal to the party and he obviously is somebody who could help Mitt Romney no matter what,” says O’Connell.

Read more from Caitlin Huey-Burns at RealClearPolitics

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published this page in In The News 2012-05-31 23:30:00 -0400
Analysis & Political Strategy