McDonnell ‘afraid people will ignore Virginia’ under changed electoral college system


Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, right, makes a "0" gesture as he talks about eliminating the state gasoline tax in return for an increase in the state sales tax to fund transportation needs during a news conference in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. On the left in the background is Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton. (Bob Brown/AP)
January 29, 2013

— Gov. Robert F. McDonnell said he’s “afraid people will ignore Virginia” if the commonwealth switches to an electoral college system that picks winners by congressional district.

The Republican governor bucked the proposal now moving through the General Assembly, telling MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that the winner-take-all system most states currently use is the way to go and that splitting up electoral votes by congressional districts is a “bad idea.”

“It’s not going to happen in Virginia,” McDonnell said. “I’m afraid people will ignore Virginia if that happens, or they’ll only go to one congressional district in Virginia (to campaign). You ought to campaign statewide. We were pretty relevant this last time . . . as a swing state. We’d lose that.”

The bill to change the way Virginia awards its electoral college votes appears headed for defeat, after McDonnell and two GOP senators on a crucial committee came out against the measure Friday.

McDonnell, who just finished a term as head of the Republican Governors Association and is in his final year in office, weighed in on a range of topics in a brief interview Tuesday on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown.” He said the GOP has to do a better job of branding the party, and suggested taking a page from Democrats’ “community organizing” playbook in a nod to President Obama’s political roots.

“You can’t show up six months before an election and say, ‘Here’s all my great ideas, I’m against those guys; vote for me.’ That’s not going to cut it,” McDonnell said. “Community organizing means everyday, all day, you gotta be out there in the communities, persuading people why conservatism works, why liberalism fails, and why it produces better results for them, their family and the things they care about.”

Asked about the bipartisan proposal on immigration reform in Congress, McDonnell said he thinks “they’re on the right path.”

The governor, who stepped down as attorney general ahead of his gubernatorial bid, was asked his thoughts on likely 2013 Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken T. Cuccinelli’s decision not to leave office during his campaign.

“I thought it was better for me,” McDonnell said. “I was laser-focused on winning the governorship . . . If Ken Cuccinelli thinks he can do both, more power to him.”

McDonnell also took time to plug his transportation funding proposal, which the governor has just days to get through the legislature. McDonnell reiterated the gas tax was not feasible long-term and argued that the sales tax increase he’s suggesting is initially revenue neutral and will likely increase with economic growth in the state.

The governor has proposed eliminating the state portion of the gas tax and increasing the sales tax by 0.8 percent to 5.8 percent as part of an ambitious overhaul of how Virginia pays for roads, rail and transit.

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