(I strongly agree with Paul on this one; stupid, stupid move by McDonnell and Can’tor. What were they THINKING?!? – promoted by lowkell)
by Paul Goldman
What has come over Governor McDonnell in recent months? He started out trying to develop an image as a bipartisan problem solver, and it was working according to the public opinion polls. At the start of this year, his polling numbers were among the best of any governor in the nation; he was head of the Republican Governors Association; experts in Washington had him high on the list of potential GOP Vice Presidential candidates; and Democratic Senator Mark Warner had reason to worry about his re-election against a popular GOP governor leaving office at the start of the 2014 cycle.
As the saying goes, life was good for Bob McDonnell. His guy Romney began gaining strength in the GOP presidential primaries. A Southern governor like Bob, with a Notre Dame background (a big plus in key Midwestern states), a photogenic female family (the key swing voting group), and a good, solid governing image, was a safe choice for the cautious Romney.
Then something happened. I don’t know what it was. But today is yet another example. Unless Professor Sabato tells me differently, today is the first time I can recall that Virginia’s two U.S. Senators and the Congressman from their own party refused to attend a meeting with a Virginia governor on the grounds that said governor was using the meeting as a backdrop for a political event.
This is extraordinary. Now, if Democrats Connolly, Moran and Scott had been the only ones refusing to attend, the public might write it off as politics, as they are very partisan Democrats in this very partisan election year.
But it wasn’t just those three: Senator Warner and Senator Webb also refused to attend on the grounds that McDonnell was breaking with precedent of decades standing, keeping such kind of politics away from the delegation meetings.
Webb and Warner are right: this isn’t the way we do it in Virginia.
Whatever McDonnell and the state’s GOP leaders may think of Senator Warner’s votes in the Congress, the fact is Mr. Warner remains the most credible politician in the state, in large measure due to his being seen as the least partisan of the state’s leaders.
Republicans may think this is a false image: but the public judges otherwise.
This image makes Senator Warner’s refusal to attend the delegation meeting today all that more newsworthy, and all that more important for the politics of the state.
Bottom line: For some reason, Governor McDonnell, perhaps pulled by his growing involvement in national GOP politics this year, has decided to jettison his winning image for one which the polls suggest is far less appealing to the voters of Virginia.
Or to put it another way: Governor McDonnell can not win a fight with Senator Warner on this issue. No way.
Why is McDonnell becoming so partisan in recent months, going along with a social issues agenda in the GA session just as he was poised to win big national points by going for a pro-jobs image? This is very puzzling, since I spent several months putting him together with Warner and the others on a very positive and highly praised pro-jobs, pro-education policy. That is a winning combo.
But the Governor’s full-out defense of Romney, and now his playing a partisan GOP governor on budget stuff in DC, is a losing combo for him in Virginia. Perhaps the latest polls are wrong and McDonnell’s image has not weakened considerably with voters in Virginia. But if the polls are right, then we know why: McDonnell is seen as spending too much time on national GOP issues and not enough time on bipartisan, Virginia-first issues.
So the Governor and Congressman Cantor can risk angering, in a political sense, Senator Warner if they so choose. But if Warner decides to hit back, it will hurt them politically. A pro-Romney, anti-Warner posture is the wrong play right now.
That’s why today’s decision by Warner and his Virginia Democratic allies on Capitol Hill is very noteworthy.