Bob McDonnell tries to save what’s left of his career

July 23, 2013

After months of negative and deeply damaging stories about his relationship with a wealthy donor, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) apologized and returned more than $100,000 in loans and gifts Tuesday in a last-ditch attempt to save what's left of his political career.

"I want you to know that I broke no laws and that I am committed to regaining your sacred trust and confidence," McDonnell said in a statement posted on his website Tuesday afternoon. "I hope today's action is another step toward that end."


Bob McDonnell apologized today. But will it take?

Here's the deal: McDonnell's future as a national political candidate -- president, vice president, Cabinet member in a GOP Administration -- has been over ever since WaPo's Roz Helderman began digging into his relationship with GOP donor Jonnie Williams. But, as the loans and gifts continued to pile up, questions began to be raised as to whether McDonnell could even survive until the end of his first -- and only -- term. (Virginia is the only state in the country that has a one-term limit on its governor.)

McDonnell's statement today is an attempt to keep the resignation calls at bay. In essence, he's saying he knows he screwed up big time, he knows how much it cost him but he also think he should be allowed to use the final four months (or so) of his term to prove to Virginians why they elected him in the first place.

It's a political public prostrating aimed at taking some of the heat off of him and his fellow Republicans who are now being asked regularly whether he should resign.

With his statement, McDonnell allows himself and other GOP pols to point to that statement and say something to the effect of: "Governor McDonnell has apologized and returned the money. I think that's sufficient."

That's critical for one politician in particular: state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli, the GOP's nominee for governor this fall, came under attack from Democrat Terry McAuliffe during the first debate of the race last Saturday over the entire McDonnell mess.

For Cuccinelli to win a race that polling currently shows him behind, McDonnell's name has to come up as little as possible between Sept. 1 and Election Day. Democrats will continue to hammer away but now Cuccinelli has a possible answer to the attacks.

Is it a good enough answer -- for either McDonnell or Cuccinelli? That remains to be seen due to two things: 1) Whether McDonnell's statement does enough to quiet the questions directed at other GOP politicians about McDonnell and 2) Whether anything else new comes out.

The answer to the first question is impossible to know since McDonnell's statement just hit this afternoon.  And, while McDonnell clearly is hoping to completely lance the political boil with his statement today, the drip, drip, drip of how the story has played out so far suggests he might not be able to put it all behind him just yet.

Bob McDonnell played his last -- and really  only -- political card left for him today.  His best case scenario is that he can last out the final few months of his term.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Aaron Blake | July 23, 2013