“He’s the governor of a battleground state, chairman of the RGA, head of the platform committee, and he speaks twice,” McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said by e-mail. “He’s wearing more hats than you’d see at the Kentucky Derby.”
Some say that McDonnell, with less than a year and a half left in the governor’s mansion, is playing yet another role in Tampa: that of a term-limited politician. Once mentioned as a potential running mate on Mitt Romney’s ticket, McDonnell could now be auditioning for a Cabinet position or a presidential run of his own.
“What you’re looking at right now at the Republican National Convention are the rising stars of the Republican Party,” said Pete Snyder, a Virginia technology entrepreneur and chairman of the 2012 Virginia Victory Campaign. “You’ll have Mitt Romney, who’ll be nominated [Tuesday]. You’re going to have a whole lot of focus on Paul Ryan. . . . But if you look lower down the list, it’s all the people who are going to be part of the Republican Party’s future — [New Jersey Gov.] Chris Christie, Governor McDonnell.”
Noting that Virginia governors can’t serve successive terms, Snyder added: “You don’t get a lot of runway when you’re governor of Virginia. You only have four years. And in a very short period of time, he has become a national player.”
Whether there is anything to the Cabinet or presidential speculation — Martin declined to comment on it — it’s certain that this week, McDonnell is Virginia’s multitasker in chief. The man who ran on the slogan “Bob’s for Jobs!” is juggling a tremendous number of them himself.
McDonnell’s most prominent role came shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday, when he contrasted the nation’s struggling economy with Virginia’s relatively healthy one.
“Conservative fiscal policies are working, and so are more Americans in the states with Republican governors today,” McDonnell said. “Now, just think what we could do if we had a president who would support us, not obstruct us.”
McDonnell’s prominence has given Virginia Republicans considerable pride as they head into the final weeks of a neck-and-neck campaign between Romney and President Obama, who took the state four years ago.
Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William) predicted that the Virginia delegation would be “all up on the chairs” cheering McDonnell in the convention hall — even as he noted that McDonnell was not the main point.
“I think it’s not so much what it means to Bob — I think he would say the same — but what it means for the country,” he said.