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The Rise of Gov. Bob McDonnell

Governor Bob McDonnell has been having an exceptionally good year. While most states are still grappling with budget shortfalls, layoffs and having to cut back on services, the Governor was able to report that Virginia had one of its largest surpluses in years. Thanks to Virginia’s typically tight fisted approach to government the budget year ended with $545 million still in the bank. It’s a remarkable feat. But that’s not all. While unemployment, nationally, just can’t seem to get below 9%, and

last month, actually went up a little, Virginia’s unemployment has dropped from 7.5% 18 months ago, to 6.3%. And there is every indication that is still edging down. Oh, and add to that a recent CNBC poll which showed Virginia as the most business friendly in the nation and it leaves the Governor with a little room for a well earned pat on the back.

However, all those encouraging economic and budget numbers weren’t the only thing making our Governor smile. Earlier this month McDonnell was asked to chair The Republican Governors Association. This is a high profile national job that makes him a player in the preparations for the 2012 election. He will be heavily involved in candidate recruitment, fundraising, and campaigning. The GOP, having already picked up several executive mansions in 2010, would like to pick up a few more in 2012.

But there is more going on than that.  McDonnell, thanks to being part of the tide which signaled a backlash against the Democrats in 2009, and later, proving himself a competent economic manager in the midst of a national economic crisis, has found some national attention. His steady management of the state fiscal policy, as well as decidedly conservative pedigree on social issues has made him someone to watch. And now, as Chairman of the Republican Governors Association he will regularly be called on as spokesman for the GOP. Also, and just as important, he will have the opportunity to help current GOP governors seeking reelection, as well as prospects hoping to get elected in 2012. In other words, he is going to be gathering some political IOU’s.

This puts McDonnell in an ideal position to be a vice presidential pick for the GOP ticket in 2012. Of course, this is always a lottery, but McDonnell, with his sterling conservative credentials would be an ideal compliment for any of the likely Republican nominees. He could be the calm and reserved balance if Rick Perry were the nominee, or he could be the true blue conservative to help balance a ticket led by Mitt Romney. It’s an ideal position to be in and McDonnell knows it. He has already told reporters that have put the question to him, that he isn’t running for anything, but he would certainly consider an offer if he were to “get the call.”

However, McDonnell does have a little baggage. One issue that has never quite faded into the background was a mistake he made early in his first term. The Governor proclaimed Confederate History Month, something he could have easily gotten away not doing, and in the process forgot to mention slavery. Forgot? In a state that’s still highly sensitive about how we deal with our segregationist past and the legacy of slavery this was tactless to say the least. It prompted that whole, long painful, discussion about slavery and the Civil War, and put McDonnell in the position of looking like a throwback to an era we had hoped we had put behind us. However, McDonnell, to his credit, apologized. That helped. But many, mostly in the press, wondered if this up and coming star, had in one stroke of a pen, managed to stop his career dead in its tracks. The answer seems to be “no.” For the most part the Governor seems to have been given a pass on this early mistake and the issue hasn’t been mentioned much since. However, if he were to be considered for Vice President, the GOP nominee will probably have to consider this early faux pas in making his choice of a running mate.

Virginia, in years past, when it came to national politics, was almost forgotten. We voted soundly Republican and rarely did our senators or governor achieve much on a national stage. But that’s changed. Virginia, while still conservative, after 2010, is considered a swing state, and during the last election cycle our former Governor, Tim Kaine, was Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He was also a strong contender for being Obama’s pick for Vice President in 2008. And now, it looks like his successor, while not in the same demanding role as Chairman of his Party, will have his chance at the national limelight too.

You may reach David Kerr at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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