Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was named chairman of the Republican Governors Association Monday, providing him with a national platform to fundraise, network and garner public attention should he choose to run for higher office.
The move was expected after Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who had been serving as chairman entered the presidential race Saturday.
It will ensure McDonnell, who already has been mentioned as a
possible vice presidential candidate next year, will receive more national exposure — while pitting him against his friend to the north, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who serves as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.
His success will not just be tied to Virginia’s budget and bills but to the the wins and losses of races across the nation. His first test will be in November when West Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi hold gubernatorial elections.
“I look forward to working with my fellow Republican governors to expand our majority and ensure the RGA remains the most effective political committee in the nation,” McDonnell said in a statement. “Republican governors are leading the way in helping the private sector create new jobs, reforming government and getting our economy back on track.”
McDonnell, elected in landslide in 2009, has said that he’d be willing to serve as vice president if asked, though he said he is not seeking the job and has every intention of filling out his term as governor, which ends January 2013.
McDonnell, the state’s first Republican governor in eight years, took office last year in the aftermath of the worst recession since the Great Depression. He easily defeated his Democratic opponent, Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (Bath), by running as a pragmatic leader who could work across party lines to solve the state’s economic problems.
A Washington Post poll in May showed 62 percent of Virginians approve of the way McDonnell was handling his job, while 26 percent disapproved. Those numbers make him one of the most popular governors in America.
He appears regularly appearances on network television, particularly following last year’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union address.
McDonnell will use the RGA post to meet more national donors, appear more often on Sunday morning talk shows and be part of the national political dialogue — something he often talks often wanting to do.
Previous chairmen include former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Perry. Romney and Perry are running for president; Barbour explored the possibility.
On Friday, New Hampshire GOP officials announced McDonnell will headline a fundraiser for them next month. It will be his first trip as governor to the state that hosts the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.