Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) went on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. He suggested that he’d like to see a governor as the party’s standard bearer in 2012 “because governors have to balance their budget, they’ve got to be decisive, they can’t make excuses. They’ve got to lead. And I think that’s what we need.” Well, why not him?
McDonnell has said, like all current non-candidates, that he’s not running for president, but he has not been Shermanesque. And perhaps this is the year of the draft, where the grass roots say of the current contenders “none of the above” and make a plea to someone who can get the job done.
The GOP could do a lot worse than McDonnell. He is poised on TV and impressive in person, mild-mannered and detail-oriented. He ran a campaign in Virginia when the Republican Party was down and out, focusing on bread-and-butter issues, winning by double digits and recapturing suburban counties Republicans had lost in recent years.
Since his election he’s racked up some impressive wins. On “Meet the Press” he explained:
DAVID GREGORY: Governor, what about the pessimism in the country? What do you see in Virginia as people struggle through an economic recovery that still has unemployment so high?
McDONNELL: Well, I tell them Virginia’s open for business. And I’m trying to tell that story around the country and around the world. I mean, we’re down to 6.3 percent unemployment. We’ve been growing at 9 to 16 percent over the last six months. And I’ll tell you the reason that I think we’re there, is we made those really tough decisions last year, David. We cut — balanced a $6 billion deficit without raising taxes, mostly through spending cuts. And it included education, and it included health care. And yeah, there was some short-term pain, but, you know, we ran a surplus within five months. We’re going to have a big surplus this year. And so now we’re, we’re coming back. And here’s why: Governors have a balanced-budget amendment. We can’t make excuses. We can’t form committees. We can’t kick the can down the road. We can’t do CRs. We can’t increase the debt limit willy-nilly. We’ve got to make tough decisions, and I think that’s what the Congress and the president need to do.
Moreover, while McDonnell favors deficit control and limited government, he is talking in terms many Republicans are not these days:
I think to some degree we’ve had attacking Wall Street and business in this White House recently. That’s not what we need. We need pro-growth, pro-economic policies. We need to keep taxes in check, and we have to have the fortitude to cut spending. And that’s what a governor, I think, will bring to the table. So I’m not at all pessimistic. I think we’ve got some good candidates. They’ll get stronger. And through the crucible of these debates, I think you’ll see a good candidate emerge.
McDonnell is certainly stepping onto the national stage with more frequency. He sat down with Byron York for a discussion hosted by the e21 think tank. He certainly impressed the assembled conservatives. And recall, too, that in 2009 he delivered one of the more impressive State of the Union responses.
In an election cycle in which many candidates are being defined by their weaknesses ( e.g., RomneyCare, a failed speakership, tenure as President Obama’s ambassador to China), Republicans might think about an accomplished governor with a solid track record. And if not for the top of the ticket, is there a better vice presidential candidate out there?