Thursday, November 10, 2011

Governor Bob McDonnell: A Potential Nominee for Vice-President?

This blog usually focuses on legal rather than political stories, but an interesting article — with a Virginia angle — caught my attention this morning on The New Republic's website.


Alec MacGillis argues (here) that Republicans' success in Tuesday's Virginia Senate elections may, paradoxically, hurt rather than help Governor McDonnell's chances of becoming the Republican vice presidential nominee next year.

MacGillis's theory is that the Democratic-controlled state Senate has so far prevented controversial conservative legislation from ever reaching McDonnell's desk. As a result, the Governor hasn't had to choose between not signing controversial bills (thereby angering conservative Republicans) and signing them (thereby decreasing his attractiveness to moderates and swing voters). 

Here is an excerpt:
McDonnell has kept himself in the mix of potential GOP running mates by projecting the image of a business-minded right-of-center executive ... Key to this new image is that McDonnell has been able to keep distance between himself and the religious right and Tea Party elements in the legislature. How? By relying on the Democrats controlling the Senate to keep the most extreme legislation from reaching his desk.
With Senate Democrats running interference, McDonnell has stayed above the fray, aided further by arch-conservative Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who has served as a convenient foil for McDonnell.
Following Tuesday's elections, says MacGillis, state Republicans may be emboldened to pass increasingly conservative legislation. If McDonnell elects to sign the legislation, then Mitt Romney or another Republican nominee may view him as less helpful in attracting moderates in the 2012 general election.


MacGillis's analysis is interesting, and he could be correct that McDonnell will someday rue Tuesday night's results.

The more I think about it, though, the more I conclude that next summer McDonnell will be in the top tier of prospective Republican vice presidential candidates (along with Marco Rubio and Chris Christie), particularly if (1) Virginia retains its status as a critical swing state and (2) McDonnell further burnishes his image as a broken-budget-repairman.


At the local level, Albemarle County politics got even more interesting on Tuesday night, with Chris Dumler's election to succeed Lindsay Dorrier portending a more consistent 3-3 split on critical Board of Supervisor decisions.