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McDonnell plays it cool on Veepstakes

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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:



Written by Ryan Nobles

May 30, 2012 at 9:35 pm

McDonnell signs voter ID bill into law

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By: Ryan Nobles – bio | email

It is the last of a string of controversial measures in the explosive 2012 Virginia General Assembly and today Governor Bob McDonnell is ready to put it behind him.  The Governor signed into law a measure that will tighten the requirements to prove your identification when you cast a ballot in an election in Virginia.

Currently in Virginia, if you are registered but show up the polls without any ID, you are able to cast your ballot, but sign a sworn statement that you are who you say you are. The vote counts, but you could be charged with fraud after the fact if you vote under someone else’s name.

Republicans have long criticized the practice as being an easy opportunity for voter fraud.  This new measure would still allow you to cast a ballot without an ID, but that ballot would only be provisional and would not count until you can produce one of the acceptable forms of ID.

Democrats angrily fought the measure and claimed that it was a GOP effort to suppress voters. In particular, voters who tend to vote for democrats, including minorities, the elderly and the poor.

The Virginia proposal was one of many passed in state legislatures around the country, but the Commonwealth’s bill did not go as far as some which forced voters to produce a photo ID at the polls. In fact, while the Virginia bill tightened the requirements at the polls, it actually expanded what you could show to prove your identity.  Currently a Virginia Voter ID card, a driver’s licence, Social Security card, government-issued ID or a photo ID from your place of employment are all accepted. The new law would also allow utility bills, paychecks, bank statements, government checks or a current Virginia college ID.

In an effort to make sure everyone who wants to vote can, McDonnell is issuing an Executive Order requiring the Board of Elections to send new voter ID cards to every single registered voter in Virginia.  This provision is addition to the current bill, which will now become law.

The liberal group “ProgressVA” was not impressed with McDonnell’s efforts to soften the impact of the new restrictions. They called the move a waste of taxpayer funds.

“This legislation and the accompanying executive order are an expensive fix to a nonexistent problem,” said Anna Scholl ProgressVA’s Executive Director  “We’ve never solved anything in this country with less democracy and we shouldn’t start now.”

The full statement from the Governor’s office and ProgressVA’s response can be found after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ryan Nobles

May 18, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Romney plans big Virginia swing around Obama launch event

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By: Ryan Nobles – bio | email

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will appear at four different events in Virginia over the next two weeks. The Romney swing represents the first significant amount of time the republican has spent in the Commonwealth since taking control of the GOP nomination for president.  It also comes around the same time as President Barack Obama plans a major event at VCU in Richmond to formally launch his 2012 campaign.

Romney will appear by himself at an event in Chantilly Wednesday morning and then a fundraiser with Governor Bob McDonnell that evening in Northern Virginia. McDonnell will then join Romney at an event at a business in Portsmouth Thursday afternoon. Finally Romney will return to Virginia next Saturday May 12th to serve as the commencement speaker at Liberty University in Lynchburg.  First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver the commencement address at Virginia Tech the day before Romney’s Liberty event on Friday May 11th.

The dual focus on Virginia comes as a new poll released by the left leaning Public Policy Polling shows Obama holding a 7 point lead in the Old Dominion. This poll follows two surveys from other services that show Romney leading by a smaller margin. The Real Clear Politics polling average gives the president a 2.5 point lead.

The visit will also increase the speculation about Governor McDonnell as a possible running mate to Romney. McDonnell has emerged as a top surrogate for the new presumptive nominee and this will be our first opportunity to see the two in what could be a ticket leading into the fall.

We will have complete coverage of th Romney Virginia swing this week on Decision Virginia and NBC12.

McDonnell chides Obama on campaign “kickoff”

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Governor Bob McDonnell is a prominent Mitt Romney supporter so it is not a surprise that he doesn’t share the same enthusiasm about Barack Obama‘s upcoming visit to Virginia as the wide-eyed Obama volunteers who we featured Wednesday night.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t appreciate the significance of the Obama campaign picking Richmond as one of two locations to kickoff off the president’s re-election bid.

“We are going to see plenty of the candidates, that’s good,” McDonnell said. “Most people ignore Virginia because they think it is going one way or the other. But this is going to be a real competitive race.”

But McDonnell stops short of buying into the notion that Saturday May, 5th is really the start of the Obama campaign.

“Well he’s been campaigning for the last two years so it’s really not the kickoff to the campaign,” he said.

The republicans seem intent to remind everyone that the president has been spending a lot of time in swing states. Events that may not have been campaign events, but ones that played to audiences that will play a key role in his re-election. House Speaker John Boehner was among those who said the White House was campaigning on the taxpayer’s dime. The Speaker even called on the Obama campaign to reimburse the federal government for the president’s recent trip to college campuses to drum up support for an extension on lower student loan rates.

The Obama campaign deflected the criticism and argued that the president’s travel is not out of the ordinary for a Commander-in-Chief. Even one seeking reelection.

McDonnell said regardless of how many times Obama comes to Virginia it can’t change what he views as policies that have not worked.

“No matter what the president may say that doesn’t change the fact that we are $16 trillion dollars in debt and unemployment is at 8.3%.”

Expect McDonnell to be front and center as a chief surrogate for the Romney campaign, there to rebut the president’s speech and offer the alternative perspective.

See an extended clip from Governor McDonnell’s remarks below:



Written by Ryan Nobles

April 26, 2012 at 9:55 pm

In a surprise move, Senate moves budget forward

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It was a hectic, unpredictable 48 hours at the State Capitol. It started with what was expected to be an easy passage of a compromise of the state budget. But like many other votes in this crazy session, Senate democrats united to turn the spending plan back. It led to calls of gloom and doom and what Governor Bob McDonnell coined “fiscal irresponsibility.”

Fast forward to Wednesday afternoon, during what appeared to be a sleepy veto session. In what seemed like just a few minutes, The budget vote was brought back, this time with veteran democrat Chuck Colgan voting with the republicans. That one vote enough to break a serious deadlock and put a budget stuck in neutral back on the fast track. 

The vote itself, was only part of the drama, as I explain in my story for NBC12 Senator Harry Blevins had to be rushed back to the Capitol for the final vote:

 RICHMOND (WWBT)- After a bleak picture just 24 hours before, Virginia is one step closer to a final budget. Wednesday at the State Capitol, the Senate passed the measure by just one vote.

What changed was the mind of one veteran democratic senator.  Sen. Chuck Colgan (Manassas) voted with his party Tuesday to hold up the budget, Wednesday he decided it was time to move the process on, capping a remarkable 24 hours at Capitol Square.

There was no special deal, no grand bargain, just a senator with a mind of his own who decided the imperfect budget was good enough to pass through to the next phase of negotiations.

Governor Bob McDonnell gave Colgan all the credit.

“He has said for some time that he understands very well that we need to have a budget and the later we go in this process the more uncertainty and unpredictability and hardship that a lack of a budget will work on the citizens of Virginia,” the governor said.

Colgan’s change of heart shocked nearly everyone, including Chesapeake Senator Harry Blevins who was en route to the bedside of his ailing wife.

When the vote was being reconsidered, the State Police put out an all points bulletin to alert Blevins about his need to return to Richmond. He rushed back in time to vote, and then was flown by state helicopter to hospital where is where his wife is being treated.

….read and see the story on NBC12.com  

Meanwhile the governor’s attitude toward the budget process has improved greatly.  On Tuesday he warned about a shrinking timeline and a dangerous fiscal position the legislature was putting the Commonwealth. Wednesday, after getting the Senate approval, McDonnell said that compared to the budget battles of 2004 and 2006, there is quite a bit of time to go through the amendment process.

That is right, we aren’t done yet. McDonnell will now carefully review the final legislative compromise and offer up his amendments. His changes will once again need the approval of the legislature. Which means this battle could begin all over again.

A portion of McDonnell’s reaction to the budget vote can be seen below:

The Senate democrats did not release a statement in reaction to the budget vote, but the House democratic statement can be found after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ryan Nobles

April 18, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Budget battle continues with partisan lines drawn

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If you thought the election of 2011 was settled, think again. Virginia is in the middle of bitter partisan fight at a State Capitol historically known for its bi-partisan cooperation. It all tracks back to last November and an election that did not clearly hand power to a single party in the Virginia Senate. As a result, every controversial vote has come down to hectic, last-minute deals. Deals that often aren’t known until the vote is finally taken on the Senate floor.

While the battles over social issues are over, democrats are holding on to the one remaining power they have left to play, their vote on the budget. Republicans cannot use Lt. Governor Bill Bolling‘s tie-breaking vote to pass the budget. Therefore, their 20 votes are enough to stop the $85 billion spending plan in its tracks. It’s allowed them to whittle away at GOP priorities and inject their limited voice into the Virginia government agenda.

It was a tactic that was successful and despite some chirping from newspaper editorial boards, it went largely unnoticed by the public. Tuesday’s vote to stall the budget for the third time, for a third different reason takes the argument into new territory. Last week the Gov. Bob McDonnell led Virginia Department of Transportation warned that they will start scaling back projects on May 1st, just a few weeks away. Localities are waiting on funding decisions that could be the differences between staffing teachers and police officers or going without. It is a showdown that could leave the reputation of both sides at risk.

Here is my story from NBC12 on where things stand right now:

RICHMOND (WWBT)- The threat of a Virginia government shutdown is growing after democrats at the State Capitol refused to pass a state budget.

This is the third time senate democrats have stood their ground, for the third different reason.

The division between democrats and republicans seems to be growing wider, and the time left to pass a budget is growing shorter. If the two sides don’t resolve their differences, state government as we know it is in big trouble.

It is a warning governor Bob McDonnell first sounded weeks ago. He repeated it again Tuesday.

“Everything from teacher funding to current VDOT projects will be slowed or potentially postponed,” said the governor.

Without a passed state budget, the government can’t operate. The current budget ends June 30th. It is a date fast approaching with no tangible sign of agreement to be found.

“They are the problem,” said McDonnell.

No agreement, but plenty of blame to go around.

“This is the most fiscally irresponsible act that I’ve seen during my career,” said McDonnell.

But democrats like Sen. Don McEachin (D- Henrico) believe the republicans are blowing things out of proportion

“There are those who want to scare the public and say the government will shut down,” said McEachin. “That is not the case.”

McEachin is among the most vocal hard line democrats. A group that three different times has used their 20 votes to block the budget from moving forward.

….read and see the rest of the story at NBC12.com.

Governor Bob McDonnell kept his composure, but was clearly angry with the democratic vote:

Meanwhile Henrico Senator Don McEachin doesn’t appeared worried about the budget timeline:

Written by Ryan Nobles

April 17, 2012 at 11:29 pm

O’Malley on 2012, Romney, Obama and McDonnell

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In a rare opportunity, NBC12 was granted a one on one interview with Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. We talked to O’Malley Tuesday night from Baltimore as the polls were closing in his state’s GOP primary.  O’Malley is a rising democratic star and shares much in common with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

We talked about his relationship with McDonnell, the GOP primary and President Barack Obama‘s prospects for November.

The full interview can be seen below:

Tuesday night on NBC12 we took an in-depth look into the relationship of O’Malley and McDonnell:

BALTIMORE, MD (WWBT)- The State of Maryland is solidly blue and its votes probably won’t have that big of an impact on the general election, but it’s governor just might. Martin O’Malley is a rising democratic star, who may one day be a candidate for president himself.  He shares quite a bit in common with our Governor Bob McDonnell.

“On a personal level, Governor McDonnell and I get a long fairly well,” said O’Malley.

And why shouldn’t they? They are both military veterans, Irish Catholics, with big families and important jobs. They both also serve as the chairs of the republican and democratic governor’s associations. But despite all they have in common, when it comes to practical politics O’Malley and McDonnell couldn’t be more different.

“I believe the way me move America forward is by not treating like an old car that you stop repairing when it gets old,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley believes that republicans like McDonnell, are advocating policies that keep the country locked in neutral. He was particularly critical of Virginia’s past general assembly session. A session he believes will resonate into the presidential election.

“We have very different views when it comes to workers rights, when it comes to women’s rights and when it comes to voters rights,” said the Maryland Governor.

read and see the full story on NBC12.com

Governor McDonnell’s spokesman Tucker Martin issued this statement in response to our interview with Governor O’Malley.

“Governor O’Malley is a really nice guy who just happens to really love raising taxes. Right now he’s trying to increase taxes in Maryland on everything from gas to income to cigars, and he’s already pushed through numerous other tax hikes. Governor McDonnell likes and respects Governor O’Malley, but he strongly disagrees with his persistent desire to always take more money from hard-working taxpayers.”
– Tucker Martin, Director of Communications

Written by Ryan Nobles

April 3, 2012 at 11:52 pm