- Published on Tuesday, 01 May 2012 18:58
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Governor McDonnell has spent most of the last two years hoping that he would be Mitt Romney’s running mate. And he has sat idly by when it comes to trying to make this wish a reality. He worked hard to be elected Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association. This is a prominent role that made sure he has been quoted, tapped for morning talk shows, and of course, a welcome visitor at Republican fundraisers. But throughout, he has been an enthusiastic Romney supporter, making speeches for the former Massachusetts Governor, and always trying to strike a Vice Presidential pose.
However, while McDonnell may think he is Vice Presidential timber, when the Romney campaign starts
considering the governor’s pluses and minuses, McDonnell probably won’t fare so well.
The Romney campaign is convinced that it needs to go after moderate and independent voters this November. Unfortunately, for McDonnell, while he was elected in 2009, on what was arguably a moderate platform, and in many ways governed as a moderate, the most recent legislative term, and the bills he had to sign, hurt that image.
Even the bills he didn’t sign damaged his image. If, for no other reason, than they gave Virginia a black eye in the national press. Yes, I know, guilt only by association, but that’s politics. The “personhood” bill, a broad piece of legislation that would have defined life as beginning at conception, with a host of potentially disturbing overtones, wasn’t endorsed by McDonnell. But he didn’t oppose it either. And it got a heavy play on the Internet, The Daily Show, and on the Jay Leno show. Also, McDonnell did sign a bill which requires women to have an ultrasound before having an abortion. While many liked this legislation, it might not be such a big seller to moderates, particularly women, in places like Minnesota, Michigan, and Ohio. Obama currently leads with women voters by a margin of 17%. This bill, and his support for it, won’t help Romney’s efforts to close that gap.
But that’s not all. It’s a minor point. Most people haven’t considered it, but surely the Romney team has, and that’s the Virginia Republican primary earlier this year. To many it looked like a set-up job with only Romney and Ron Paul on the ballot. With all the cards stacked in his favor, and Paul, spending no time or money in the state, Romney should have won with 70% or more of the vote. Certainly, many in the Romney campaign expected McDonnell to deliver this kind of lopsided win. Instead, Ron Paul managed to score his largest vote total in any primary. The quirky Texas legislator, capturing a Republican protest vote, got 41% of the vote. The Romney campaign, wisely, barely acknowledged its win in Virginia.
Oh, but we’re not finished. The Governor, when he is being vetted, is going to have to explain, probably repeatedly, his signing of a proclamation for Confederate History Month. His predecessors had taken a pass on this, but McDonnell, rather naively, stepped right in and put his pen to paper. That might not have been so bad, but unlike earlier proclamations designating April as Confederate History Month, McDonnell didn’t mention slavery. The uproar over this omission could be heard all over the old confederacy. It was a major gaffe and several newspapers, then and there, said the Governor was sunk, when it came to any hopes of national office.
Then there is the famous thesis McDonnell wrote when he was doing his master’s degree in public policy. It came out in the press when he ran for Governor, and it must not have had much effect, since he won by a landslide, but it’s still out there. It’s easy to find on the Internet. In it he questions whether or not women should work outside the home, doubts whether unmarried couples should have access to contraceptives, and takes a hard line on gays. Yes, it was just a thesis, and I would hate to be held accountable for anything I wrote in 1989, but then again, I don’t want to be Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential nominee. The Romney campaign is going to give this, and every other, writing, speech, or off handed comment, a close and abiding look.
And that, for our Governor, is his problem. More than anything he wants to be Mitt Romney’s choice to be Vice President. He has done his best to land the role, but unfortunately, the score card doesn’t look good. Romney’s running mate, along with being a match politically, needs a squeaky clean political record, and our Governor, alas, probably doesn’t meet that test.