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Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

   20140901MetroCastweb

McDonnell’s thesis is not yet a stumbling point

Every campaign has a stumble. Sometimes they’re game changers and sometimes they’re not. In 2006 George Allen referred to a young man of Indian descent as a “macaca.” As we all found out, that word was not a kind reference. And while this insult seemed like nothing more than a stumble at the time, it quickly took on a life of its own. Many think it was the first step on the road to the senator’s defeat in November. Other stumbles, such President Obama’s association with the inflammatory Reverend Jeremiah Wright can cause a stir, but then quickly fade away.
Creigh Deeds, whose campaign has had serious problems getting started, is hoping that his opponent, Bob McDonnell, might also be having one of those stumbles that won’t go away. What’s happened is that Bob McDonnell’s 1989 master’s thesis from what was then called the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) University (it’s now Regency University) has found its way into the press. Most such documents aren’t that exciting. But McDonnell made his into something of a political agenda. It’s called “The Republican Party’s Vision for the Family.” It is well written, coherent and decisive. Hopefully, it got an A. It deserved one. However, a lot of it, particularly for a candidate who has spent the past year trying to define himself as a moderate could put the candidate in an awkward position.

For example, McDonnell expressed his opposition to tax credits for child care because, and this is the reference that might agitate some people, they encourage women to enter the workforce — something he considered damaging to the traditional family. There are certainly many voters, even today, who might agree with him. But it’s a take on working women that might not sit too well in some parts of the state. That is particularly true for Northern Virginia.
He is also passionately opposed to contraception. He just doesn’t like it, whether for married or unmarried couples. And while it can be argued that this view might belong to his past, it’s a position, at least based on his votes in the legislature, that doesn’t seem to have changed much during the past 20 years. He also opposes “no fault divorce.” This is the way most divorces are handled in modern America. Also, he is opposed to any unique benefits for families with a single head of household.
McDonnell, somewhat predictably, also, based on his thesis, takes a dim view toward gays. Nothing harsh, but not friendly either.
In addition, and again, this isn’t really a surprise, he is opposed to abortion no matter what the circumstance. Generally, even the most ardent abortion opponents usually throw in a qualifier or two. But not McDonnell. Again, this is a view that doesn’t appear to have morphed much during the past two decades.
To social conservatives, many of whom make up the GOP base, this is great news. It tells them that McDonnell’s views, which many feared were squishy when it came to the important social issues, are where they want them. For these voters, the thesis may well spur them to get even more involved in the McDonnell campaign.
However, McDonnell, as a part of his campaign strategy, needs to win the now reliable Northern Virginia Democratic base. Current polling says he has made significant inroads into the region. Much of McDonnell’s success with Northern Virginia voters has been accomplished by casting a comfortable, thoughtful, middle of the road image. In a way, the McDonnell approach to Northern Virginia has modeled the successful career of former Congressman Tom Davis. Davis played down his conservative positions on social issues in favor of economic issues. It was a successful move. However, as the McDonnell thesis becomes popular knowledge, perhaps, it’s possible that some of McDonnell’s more strident views might rise up to haunt him. However, at the moment, it’s not altogether clear that this is the case.
The McDonnell Master’s Thesis, which came to light last week, hasn’t caused much of a shift in the poll numbers. There are possibly several reasons for this. Voters may find what he wrote, way back when, irrelevant. Or, they may agree with his views. Or, just as likely, they may be basing their vote for governor on something other than his views on abortion, gays or women in the work force. And finally, so early in the race, some just aren’t paying attention. None of that is to say that the thesis might not cause the GOP candidate some trouble. The Internet, after the hardcore bloggers have had time to digest it, may give the McDonnell thesis a second and even a third life. But right now, the McDonnell Master’s Thesis, as juicy as it is to Democrats, is not Bob McDonnell’s macaca moment.

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