McDonnell had denied knowledge of the ad campaign, but we learned Tuesday that his political action committee has reserved air time Wednesday through May 6, according to several sources who are familiar with the ads but were not authorized to speak for the governor.
McDonnell is looking to boost his approval ratings and remind viewers of Virginia’s successes after a spate of bad publicity.
His political action committee, Opportunity Virginia, will pay for the ads, which are expected to cost nearly $400,000 on broadcast and cable. They will air in Washington, Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk and Charlottesville.
McDonnell, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, is one of the most popular governors in the nation, but his approval ratings have dropped in recent months after the General Assembly delayed approving a state budget and passed a bill that requires women to undergo ultrasounds before abortions.
When McDonnell was asked about the ads last week, he responded: “You know you can’t believe everything in the paper. We’re always looking to get out the positive message of what we are doing in Virginia. There’s nothing else planned. I don’t know where those reports have come from.’’
In an afternoon news release Tuesday, however, McDonnell shared the ad. “Virginia is growing strong again,”' he said in a statement. “Through a bipartisan effort in Richmond, and the hard work, innovation and dedication of the people of Virginia, our economy is recovering. There is a lot to celebrate in our Commonwealth. This ad highlights some of the men and women driving this recovery, while noting all that has been accomplished over the past two years. With unemployment at over a three-year low, agricultural exports at a record high, and thousands of Virginians working again, this is a great time to recognize all the great things happening in our tremendous Commonwealth. Virginians have written an incredible story; this ad tells it. Together, we are growing strong again.”
McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin and Phil Cox, the governor’s top political adviser, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
“The only thing more embarrassing than Bob McDonnell’s ‘Pick me! Pick me!’ ad buy is his record as governor,’’ said Brian Coy, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia. “He could have saved himself and his donors a lot of money had he focused on the job he was hired to do instead of turning our commonwealth into a national punch line with mandatory ultrasounds and his continued rolling back of women’s rights.”
In March, 53 percent of voters approved of McDonnell’s job performance, down five points from Feb. 9, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. Thirty-two percent of voters disapproved.
That was the lowest rating for McDonnell since the independent Quinnipiac began Virginia surveys in June 2011.