McDonnell plays it cool on Veepstakes
It is, without a doubt, the one issue that brings Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell the most attention. But when asked, McDonnell makes it seem that, being a potential running mate for Mitt Romney, is the furthest thing from his mind.
His focus, he will tell you, is “governing”. Wrapping up the state budget process and overseeing whatever particular initiative his office is taking on. On Wednesday it was a new program that will offer ID cards to Virginia veterans.
Even politically, McDonnell claims that being the nominee for Vice President is low on his list of priorities. He often sites his work in 13 gubernatorial races as Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association and acting as a surrogate for Romney. He believes that work is more important than the frequent attention he receives as a potential VP nominee.
“I’m not asking for it, I’m not expecting it, I’m not sitting around waiting for the phone to ring,” McDonnell said. “I will do what I can to help him (Romney).”
McDonnell told WTOP radio earlier in the week that he has not been asked to submit any information for what is usually a rigorous vetting process. The comment set off a series of national speculation that he was out of the running. McDonnell acted today as if that was no big deal.
“I don’t think it means anything,” he said. “I told Mitt Romney that I will help him in any way that I can.”
There are reports that the Romney campaign has begun the vetting process, but not one potential candidate has confirmed that they are being investigated.
McDonnell seems to not care either way.
But it’s not just what McDonnell says when it comes to the Veepstakes, it is also the way he acts. Both tell you that he is working hard to play it cool, while at the same time doing everything he can to position himself to be picked.
Wednesday during his event honoring Veterans, McDonnell didn’t get annoyed with questions about his Vice Presidential prospects, but he also didn’t just reject them outright. He stuck to his typical talking points (“I’m not asking for it, I’m not expecting it” is his go-to line) while touting his work building a foundation for a grass-roots operation for Romney team. It could be a way to show that he is ready to deliver the state come November.
He also is playing both sides of this tight rope in his work as governor. McDonnell, who is in the twilight of his governorship, has by no means decided to coast. He fought vigorously for his priorities in the state budget and continues to offer new initiatives and give every indication that he plans to see his legacy through. At the same time he has embarked on a statewide tour highlighting his administrations accomplishments and his campaign arm bought a significant amount of television time to tout his work in a slick 30 second ad. This, despite the fact that he isn’t running for anything.
Democrats have claimed that McDonnell made both moves to re-boost his popularity to make him a more attractive VP pick. They dubbed his tour of the Commonwealth as his “pick me tour”. McDonnell’s statewide popularity and national profile took a hit after a brutal legislative session that put him in the middle of controversial abortion and gun control legislation.
So after all of this, just where does McDonnell stand? There is no doubt that he has slipped a bit in the rankings. Prior to the lumps taken in the legislative session, McDonnell was regularly considered to be in the top 5 of most speculative polls, now he is considered to be somewhere around the top 10 and holding. Being picked as a VP nominee requires an incredible amount of good fortune together all at once, most of which is outside of your control. McDonnell really has no choice but to just play it cool. There isn’t much else he can do.
That doesn’t mean he is out of the running. Virginia remains one of, if not the most, competitive state in election. His approval rating, despite dropping, remains among the highest in his state of potential VP picks. While big names pop up and gain momentum from time to time, McDonnell has to hope he can remain consistently in the mix and when the time comes to make a final choice, that his attributes fit what Romney needs to get him over the top.
Until then, he will do what the campaign needs and just remain “cool”.
An extended clip from McDonnell’s remarks on the VP search can be seen below: