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Opinion: McDonnell for Veep Deserves a Second Look

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    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

    In early July, there were signs that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell had been eliminated from the 2012 veepstakes.

    McDonnell was appointed to chair the platform committee for the Republican National Convention.

    Typically, vice president nominees are not assigned the nitty gritty work of crafting an issues platform. The task is somewhat thankless. McDonnell will need to say “no” or “kinda no” to interest groups and powerful players that pull the party too far right, too close to the center or create other potential obstacles to victory in November.

    But now a huge burst of wind is filling McDonnell's sails. Yesterday, his office announced that Virginia ended its fiscal year with a $130 million surplus.

    Good economic news -- rare in many parts of the country -- could be the foundation of a great stump speech for McDonnell on the campaign trail.

    So, is it time for Mitt Romney's camp to recalculate the impact of a McDonnell nomination?

    Nearly every public opinion poll shows that the economy, jobs and government spending are the top concerns for voters.

    A “purple state” governor who has delivered surpluses seems like a good running mate to me.

    Of course, McDonnell’s stock took a big hit earlier this year when conservative Virginia legislators proposed a controversial law to require ultrasounds before women could undergo abortions. Though McDonnell managed to work out a compromise, his approval ratings among women dropped.

    And women are a key constituency with whom Romney lags and must make up ground.

    Social issues, however, do not rank high among the priorities of swing voters. So McDonnell's biggest drawback may be surmountable.

    There is also the matter of McDonnell's home state, a battleground where President Obama leads in the polls.

    While there is no doubt that the governor will deploy his statewide political machine for Romney, having McDonnell on the presidential ticket may be that little something extra the GOP needs in Virginia. One percentage point could mean the world.

    Outside Virginia, McDonnell’s strong record on the economy and conservative government spending is surely to be a winner with a lot of swing voters.

    There are numerous considerations and stiff competition for the veep slot. For example, Senator Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire could attract the support of women. Rising star Senator Marco Rubio of Florida could help Romney carry the Sunshine State, generate support among Latino voters in other key regions and add diversity to ticket.  And there are other contenders, too. Many others. Each has weaknesses and strengths. If there is a potential veep without flaws, he or she is a virtual unknown. And that in itself is a flaw.

    McDonnell deserves a second look. It’s the economy, stupid. Really, it is.

    Barring an unanticipated turn of events, folks who remain undecided in the closing weeks of the campaign will be voting their wallets.

    In that environment, McDonnell’s fiscal record is likely to outshine the other imperfections he brings to the game.


    Chuck Thies is a political analyst and consultant.  His columns appear every Tuesday and Thursday on First Read DMV. He co-hosts "DC Politics" on WPFW, 89.3 FM. Since 1991, Chuck has lived in either D.C., Maryland or Virginia. Email your tips and complaints to chuckthies@gmail.com or tweet at @chuckthies.