“Virginia is the home of America’s military,” Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said in a statement distributed by the Romney campaign. “We are home to the Pentagon, to Quantico, to Norfolk, to Langley Air Force Base, and so many other critical components of our nation’s armed forces. The President has put our defense budget on course for radical cuts that even his own secretary of defense says will be ‘devastating’ to U.S. national security.”
The $100 billion in cuts to the Pentagon and non-defense programs were adopted last summer as part of an effort to rein in the national debt. But the plan was to force House Republicans and Obama back to the table for a longer-term solution, not for reductions to actually take effect.
Advisers at the White House and the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago made that point Thursday in an effort to dismiss the Romney attacks and insist that the responsibility to avoid the cuts is shared.
“What bipartisan majorities passed last year was a legislative commitment by Congress to take action,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in his daily briefing Thursday. “The secretary of defense and others have made clear they do not support the cuts in defense spending that would be called for. The across-the-board cuts were objectionable and onerous for a reason. That’s why Congress has to act.”
Republicans are trying to shift that argument to place the burden squarely on Obama. Their statements Thursday described “Obama’s defense cuts,” and several of them, including McDonnell and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), were expected to make an appearance Friday morning in Williamsburg, where the National Governors Association is convening for the weekend, to continue the barrage.
Furthermore, federal contractors, many of them based in Virginia, have begun an aggressive effort to lobby lawmakers to avoid the cuts. One such contractor is EADS North America in Herndon — just down the road from Centreville High School, where Obama is scheduled to speak Saturday afternoon. In a letter to congressional leaders, EADS Chairman Sean O’Keefe called the threatened military cuts a “blunt instrument of budgetary discipline” and urged lawmakers to find an alternative.
Virginia is one of three states (the others are California and Texas) expected to be hit hardest by the cuts, according to a growing body of research. But it is the only crucial battleground, which explains why Republicans are seizing on Obama’s two days of events there to highlight the reductions. Obama will speak in Virginia Beach, Hampton and Roanoke on Friday and in the Richmond area and Fairfax County on Saturday — all locations rich in military installations or defense contractors.