The Washington Post

Bob McDonnell tries to save what’s left of his career

After months of negative and deeply damaging stories about his relationship with a wealthy donor, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) apologized and returned more than $100,000 in loans and gifts Tuesday in a last-ditch attempt to save what's left of his political career.

"I want you to know that I broke no laws and that I am committed to regaining your sacred trust and confidence," McDonnell said in a statement posted on his website Tuesday afternoon. "I hope today's action is another step toward that end."

Bob McDonnell apologized today. But will it take?

Here's the deal: McDonnell's future as a national political candidate -- president, vice president, Cabinet member in a GOP Administration -- has been over ever since WaPo's Roz Helderman began digging into his relationship with GOP donor Jonnie Williams. But, as the loans and gifts continued to pile up, questions began to be raised as to whether McDonnell could even survive until the end of his first -- and only -- term. (Virginia is the only state in the country that has a one-term limit on its governor.)

McDonnell's statement today is an attempt to keep the resignation calls at bay. In essence, he's saying he knows he screwed up big time, he knows how much it cost him but he also think he should be allowed to use the final four months (or so) of his term to prove to Virginians why they elected him in the first place.

It's a political public prostrating aimed at taking some of the heat off of him and his fellow Republicans who are now being asked regularly whether he should resign.

With his statement, McDonnell allows himself and other GOP pols to point to that statement and say something to the effect of: "Governor McDonnell has apologized and returned the money. I think that's sufficient."

That's critical for one politician in particular: state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli, the GOP's nominee for governor this fall, came under attack from Democrat Terry McAuliffe during the first debate of the race last Saturday over the entire McDonnell mess.

For Cuccinelli to win a race that polling currently shows him behind, McDonnell's name has to come up as little as possible between Sept. 1 and Election Day. Democrats will continue to hammer away but now Cuccinelli has a possible answer to the attacks.

Is it a good enough answer -- for either McDonnell or Cuccinelli? That remains to be seen due to two things: 1) Whether McDonnell's statement does enough to quiet the questions directed at other GOP politicians about McDonnell and 2) Whether anything else new comes out.

The answer to the first question is impossible to know since McDonnell's statement just hit this afternoon.  And, while McDonnell clearly is hoping to completely lance the political boil with his statement today, the drip, drip, drip of how the story has played out so far suggests he might not be able to put it all behind him just yet.

Bob McDonnell played his last -- and really  only -- political card left for him today.  His best case scenario is that he can last out the final few months of his term.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
Republicans debated Saturday night. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Dan Balz says...
Rarely has the division between Trump and party elites been more apparent. Trump trashed one of the most revered families in Republican politics and made a bet that standing his ground is better than backing down. Drawing boos from the audience, Trump did not flinch. But whether he will be punished or rewarded by voters was the unanswerable question.
GOP candidates react to Justice Scalia's death
I don't know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn't speak Spanish.
Sen. Marco Rubio, attacking Sen. Ted Cruz in Saturday night's very heated GOP debate in South Carolina. Soon after, Cruz went on a tirade in Spanish.
The Fix asks The State's political reporter where the most important region of the state is.
The State's Andy Shain says he could talk about Charleston, which represents a little bit of everything the state has to offer from evangelicals to libertarians, and where Ted Cruz is raising more money than anywhere else. In a twist, Marco Rubio is drawing strong financial support from more socially conservative Upstate. That said, Donald Trump is bursting all the conventional wisdom in the state. So maybe the better answer to this question is, "Wherever Trump is."
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

March 6: Democratic debate

on CNN, in Flint, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.