Path to Power
Bob McDonnell was elected governor of Virginia in 2009 by a wide margin, and he is in the top tier of possible candidates to be the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2012.
A former Virginia attorney general, he is “the popular governor of perhaps the swingiest state, er, Commonwealth in the country,” according to The Fix’s Chris Cillizza.
Cillizza goes on to report that: “McDonnell has also been the most outspoken about his interest in the v.p. job; “We’ll see,” he responded when pressed about his interest in the gig. (Worth noting: Because of Virginia’s odd one-term limit on its governor, McDonnell will be out of a job at the end of 2013 no matter what.)”
McDonnell's move toward the center came early in his 2009 bid for governor. The first major policy proposal announced by McDonnell came in March 2009 when he announced his desire to preserve 400,000 acres of Virginia land, replicating a move that Gov. Kaine sought during his 2005 campaign.
McDonnell's 1989 master's thesis for Regent included a 15-point plan aimed at protecting American families. McDonnell pursued several of the proposals as a state legislator, including instituting restrictions on abortions and establishing covenant marriage in Virginia, which would make divorce is made more difficult (it was unsuccessful).
In February 2006, as attorney general, McDonnell issued a legal opinion claiming that Gov. Kaine and former Gov. Mark Warner (D-Va.) both signed unconstitutional executive orders banning discrimination based on sexual orientation for state job applicants. By issuing the opinon, McDonnell said he could not represent the state if the order was challenged in court, though the order continues to stand. Gay-rights groups are pushing a bill replicating the orders, saying they fear the executive order would be rescinded by a Republican governor.
In January 2008, McDonnell filed legal papers supporting a group of Virginia churches' right to split with the Episcopal church and keep its property following the church's acceptance of its first openly gay bishop.
As attorney general, McDonnell crafted a tough-on-crime image. He pursued a series of anti-gang initiatives, creating a 2006 partnership with federal prosecutors to try regional gang cases in federal courts. In 2008, he designated state dollars in for a dedicated gang-crime analyst. As of March 2008, Virginia officials say the anti-gang initiatives during McDonnell's watch resulted in more than 90 state and federal indictments.
In an August 2009 campaign speech, McDonnell outlined his law enforcement strategy, saying he would support the lifetime monitoring of sexual predators through tracking devices. He also proposed to increase the number of dedicated drug courts and to set mandatory sentences for habitual drug dealers. Second-time drug dealing offenders would go to jail a minimum of five years, while third-timer offenders would be incarcer McDonnell said the proposal would likely mean more inmates, requiring additional spending on prisons.
McDonnell has been vocal in his support of the death penalty. In April 2008, McDonnell criticized Kaine's "decision to impose a blanket moratorium on all executions in Virginia" while awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether lethal injections are constitutional. After the court upheld the constitutionality of lethal injections later in the month, McDonnell applauded Kaine's decision to resume executions.
McDonnell drew the ire of gun owners when he supported then-Gov. L. Douglas Wilder's (D-Va.) 1993 law limiting purchases of handguns to one a month.The National Rifle Association backed Deeds in the 2005 Virginia attorney general race over McDonnell. Since then, the Republican has been generally supportive of gun owners' rights.
In a February 2007 attorney general opinion, McDonnell ruled that school boards cannot prohibit the possession of firearms at board meetings held off of school property.In a March 2008 community event, he said college boards may determine their own policies on allowing guns on campus.
Following the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech University, McDonnell and Kaine both signed an executive order that closed a loophole in state law allowing shooter Cho Seung-Hui to acquire two handguns, despite official records showing he received mental-health counseling.
Though education was not a focus for him as a state delegate, McDonnell's his 2009 gubernatorial campaign called for various reforms in the state education system. Among his proposals were: setting targets for state institutions to award an additional 100,000 bachelor's and associate degrees over 15 years; and seeking to restructure the higher-education system to improve access and affordability for the state's low-income students. McDonnell said he would work with state institutions to control costs and help improve financial aid.
On K-12 education, McDonnell campaigned on raising teacher salaries by redirecting funding from education administration, working with private partners to improve instruction and increasing the number of Virgina's charter schools.