2016 Watch: Tea party group airs ad attacking McDonnell, in Iowa

March 7, 2013

Since the Virginia General Assembly passed a sweeping new transportation plan, conservatives in the commonwealth and Washington have attacked Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) for his willingness to back tax hikes. Now those critics have opened up a new front — in Iowa.

At the urging of former Virginia U.S. Senate candidate Jamie Radtke (R), a tea party-backed group called Patriot Super PAC has launched a small ad buy in the Hawkeye State taking McDonnell to task for the transportation package. The ad was flagged by the Sunlight Foundation’s Reporting Group blog.

“Sometime soon, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell may be in Iowa to test the waters for 2016,” the ad’s narrator says. “But don’t be fooled. As a candidate, McDonnell promised Virginians he would never raise taxes. But as governor, McDonnell pushed the largest tax increase in Virginia history. . . . So if Bob McDonnell comes to Iowa, you can’t believe a word he says.”

McDonnell, whose lone term as governor will end in January, is widely believed to be mulling a presidential bid in 2016. Some conservatives have said the transportation plan makes him a much less viable candidate to win the Republican primary, and he was notably not invited to next week’s Conservative Political Action Conference. But McDonnell has also drawn some bipartisan praise within Virginia for striking a deal to boost revenue for roads — a popular goal that has stymied governors from both parties.

McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin responded to the ad with a jab at Patriot Super PAC, which is based in Chantilly.

“Ironically, the Governor’s leadership on transportation will allow employees of this Virginia-based PAC to spend less time sitting in traffic, and give them more time to make creative ads like this one,” Martin said. “You’re welcome Patriot Super PAC: enjoy the improved commute, savings on gas, and Virginia’s new and improved roads.”

Patriot Super PAC only spent $4,300 on the ad, and Sunlight notes that the group has not been a huge player on the political scene, spending a total of $171,000 in the 2012 cycle on a handful of races.

Radtke — the former Virginia Tea Party Patriots head who lost the 2012 Virginia U.S. Senate GOP primary to George Allen — said in an interview that the ad was her idea, and she brought it to the PAC in hopes the group would pay to put it on the air. Radtke has been a longtime opponent of what she considers the “old-boy network” of the Virginia Republican establishment, and recently criticized Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling for his willingness to consider a run for governor as an independent.

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