This post has been updated.
Along with “binders full of women,” Mitt Romney surely has binders full of surrogates. But it fell to one with more than a little baggage on women’s issues to take up for Romney and his “binders” remark on national TV Thursday.
It was Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R). Yes, the man whose 20-year-old graduate thesis decrying working women came back to haunt him as he ran for governor three years ago. The one whose vice-presidential prospects seemed to crash and burn this year with a string of anti-abortion legislation pushed by fellow Republicans in the General Assembly, including a nationally lampooned bill that, before it was amended, would have required women to undergo a vaginal ultrasound before an abortion.
Not that any of that came up as McDonnell chatted with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien about Romney’s much-mocked comment. During Tuesday’s debate with President Obama, the former Massachusetts governor said that he’d collected “binders full of women” in the process of recruiting women to work for him.
“Mitt Romney’s point was that he actually, affirmatively went out to make sure that he had great, competent, qualified women in his Cabinet,” McDonnell said. “I think at one point, he had more women in his Cabinet than any governor in the country.”
McDonnell also told O’Brien that women, like all voters, are more concerned about the economy and the nation’s fiscal health than about “largely contrived” social issues. He also noted that a new Pew poll had Romney and Obama tied among women.
(O’Brien, incidentally, said that unspecified polling conducted before this week’s debate had Romney up 15 percent in Virginia. That was news to McDonnell and, frankly, those of us covering politics in the key swing state; every poll we’re aware of shows a very tight race.)
The governor, who earlier this year found himself personally ridiculed by Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart over the ultrasound bill, even allowed himself a chuckle over all the fun the Democrats were having with the binders comment.
“This is a serious campaign, and I think maybe a laugh or two here or there is probably a good idea,” McDonnell said.
And McDonnell just might have the last laugh.
For all the beating he took over the old thesis, he easily won the governor’s mansion. And despite the ultrasound business, he’s still on solid ground with women in Virginia. A recent Washington Post poll found that 55 percent of them approve of his job performance, and just 26 percent disapprove.
Update, 3:45 p.m.: This afternoon, O’Brien released a statement clarifying that she was referring to a Quinnipiac University poll that found Obama ahead by 16 points as it turns out, not 15 — but only among women, not voters overall.
“In my interview with Governor Bob McDonnell this morning, I was citing the pre-debate Quinnipiac poll on women voters (October 4-9, 2012 — 56 for President Obama, 40 for Romney), and while the information on the screen said ‘women,’ I didn’t say the word,” the statement said. “I was in error to not say the word ‘women’ while it appeared on the screen.”