In the last year of his four-year term, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell remains firmly popular with Virginia voters, getting high marks from independents, Democrats and Republicans on how he is handling his duties as governor and his personal ethics, according to a new Washington Post poll.
Overall, 64 percent of all registered voters in the commonwealth say they approve of the job McDonnell (R) is doing, up six percentage points from two Post surveys last year. His approval rating is as high as it has been in periodic Post polls over his tenure. The positive ratings cut across the political spectrum, with the biggest improvement coming among Democratic voters. Fifty-two percent of them say McDonnell is doing a good job, compared with 38 percent last September.
Solid approval ratings for Gov. McDonnell
Previous Washington Post coverage of Gov. Bob McDonnell and ties to Star Scientific.
There is also cross-party agreement that McDonnell has “high personal moral and ethical standards.” Fifty-nine percent of all Virginians say so; just 16 percent say he does not, and 25 percent are unsure.
The latest poll numbers come not long after McDonnell claimed a major legislative victory with the passage of a landmark transportation plan and as the FBI raises questions about his relationship with donor and Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr.
McDonnell, who cannot succeed himself under the state’s constitution, spent much of his political capital this year when he urged legislators to eliminate the state’s gas tax, raise the sales tax and devote more general-fund revenue to road projects. The move — in a year when the House of Delegates is up for election — divided tax-wary Republicans and Democrats reluctant to divert resources to transportation over priorities such as education.
After weeks of negotiations that included laying the groundwork for expanding Medicaid in the state, the General Assembly reached an 11th-hour compromise on transportation that was very different from McDonnell’s original plan but that he touted as a pragmatic, bipartisan solution to an issue that has eluded Richmond lawmakers for nearly a generation. The plan is expected to raise $1.4 billion a year for road projects over five years.
“He understood there was a problem that needed to be solved, and he realized he had a bunch of his ideas that he wouldn’t get through unless he agreed to compromise,” said Paul Slattery, 71, of McLean. “I thought it was more responsible than the hard-line positions other people around him wanted him to take.”
Charles Davis, who describes himself as a “New Deal Democrat,” called the transportation bill “a good compromise” and gave McDonnell grudging good marks.
“He could have done worse, I guess,” said Davis, 80, a retired federal contracting employee who lives in Burke. “Considering what we have to work with here — the Republican House down in Richmond — I think he’s done well.”
But more recently McDonnell, often mentioned as a potential national candidate, has been caught in a media storm over his relationship with Williams, who paid a $15,000 catering tab for the 2011 wedding of one of the governor’s daughters.