Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, listens to Republican National Chairman Michael Steele, not pictured, during a rally in Richmond, Va., Friday, Oct. 30, 2009. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Could Gov. Bob McDonnell run for president in 2012?
Conservative CNBC talk show host Larry Kudlow encouraged McDonnell to make a run on his show Wednesday evening, but McDonnell laughed it off. “I’ve got so much on my plate right now,” McDonnell told Kudlow. “I call it a decent start but I’ve got a lot to accomplish in Virginia.”
It might seem a bit premature for anyone to be considering McDonnell as a national candidate; he’s been governor for just nine months. But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who took office the same week as McDonnell, has also been mentioned as a candidate. The Republican field is wide open, and it wasn’t long ago that the Democrats nominated a first-term senator for president -- and he won.
Still, McDonnell is making no moves toward a presidential candidacy that would require millions of dollars and months on the road. His name has come up more often as a vice presidential contender, and he has been reaching out to the national Tea Party movement and GOP activists. But McDonnell is more likely to have his eye on 2016 than 2012.
Of course, there’s 2010 to get through first, and with Republican gains expected across the nation, even the Democratic stronghold of Northern Virginia could be up for grabs. National Review’s Jim Geraghty is calling Eighth District GOP contender Patrick Murray “my special crazy insane upset pick” -- not going so far as to predict Murray will defeat Rep. Jim Moran, but saying it’s at least possible.
Over in the 11th District, a race seen as a tossup, Republican Keith Fimian is aggressively taking on freshman Democrat Gerry Connolly. The Washington Examiner says Fimian “repeatedly hammered” Connolly in a debate Thursday, “putting the incumbent on the defensive.”
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Republican rival Bob Ehrlich debated at the Washington Post building on Thursday, with Ehrlich, trailing in the polls, going on the attack against the man who beat him four year ago. The Post says Ehrlich “repeatedly lashed out” at O’Malley, “accusing him of mishandling the state economy and supporting a group facilitating illegal immigration.” The debate was much testier than a more cordial exchange between the two earlier in the week. O’Malley, who has the luxury of the lead, “was more measured” than Ehrlich yesterday, and said the Republican “had repeatedly raised taxes and fees during his term as governor.”
The Examiner says immigration was a major topic of contention, with Ehrlich criticizing O’Malley for calling illegal immigrants “new Americans” six times during the debate. In the Post, Robert McCartney writes that while Ehrlich “scored some points and helped enliven the race” as it enters the final stretch, “I didn’t think he knocked O’Malley off balance or fundamentally altered the race.” This race still looks like it’s O’Malley’s to lose.
* There won’t be a late debate in the D.C. mayoral race, since, as “Mayor” Vincent Gray points out, there’s really no one for him to debate. (Sorry, Carlos and Faith.) The Post reports Write Fenty In strategist Josh Lopez wants to debate Gray, but Lopez is not actually a candidate for office. “Who am I debating, the website?” Gray asked.
Gray hosted his Ward 2 town hall meeting Thursday night at Foundry United Methodist Church, and while Interim Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson made an appearance, she did not address the crowd. Gray talked up D.C. statehood and said the city did not do a disservice to voters by approving gay marriage without a referendum. He also said guaranteeing housing as a right would be nice, but it’s cost-prohibitive.
* Washington City Paper’s Alan Suderman writes that D.C. Democratic State Committee Executive Director David Meadows told him that Gray’s proposal to make the attorney general an elected position was not just about Gray nemesis Peter Nickles. But when Meadows “sought some back up from Gray, a laughing Gray gave this answer instead: ‘Yes it is the one person, who is in there now.’”
* The Post writes that Ward 5 Republican Council candidate Tim Day and other D.C. Republicans are accusing Day’s rival, incumbent Harry Thomas Jr., “of raising money for a ‘slush fund’ that he depicts as a nonprofit group even though it is not registered with the IRS and is not in good standing with the city government.” Day said Thomas “has been raising money for his Team Thomas/SwingAway LLC program for years but has not been disclosing who his donors are or where the money goes.” Thomas says he “never suggested the organization was registered as a tax-exempt nonprofit.”
* The Mount Vernon Triangle blog covers the Downtown Neighborhood Association Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner candidate forum, while the Washington Blade notes “at least 29 gay or lesbian candidates are running” for ANC seats this year.
* WTOP’s Mark Segraves talked with interim schools chief Henderson, who said she found out “last week sometime” that she would be getting the temporary promotion. Asked if she would like to be Rhee’s permanent successor, she said, “I think it’s too early to tell. I love this school system. I think that Chairman Gray and I will -- when he’s elected -- will make the right decisions together. I think it should be a collaborative decision.” She said she will definitely stay on through the end of the school year.
Post education writer Bill Turque says Henderson “was a bit vague Thursday on what exactly she would do differently while driving the agenda of the woman she called ‘my friend, partner, mentor.’ What’s clear is that the message Gray wants to send is really Henderson herself: a gracious but resolute African American woman with deep roots in both the education reform movement and the District. In other words, Rhee without Rhee.”
The Examiner’s Harry Jaffe says Rhee’s “execution was less than deft, her timing was sometimes off, and she blurted out too many inflammatory lines to the media.” But if Henderson “stays for the next four years, reform can flourish.” The New York Times, in an editorial, is hopeful too: “Henderson has a softer personal touch” than Rhee, “but is just as steely when it comes to policy. She has been outspoken about the stunning lack of professionalism and accountability that characterized the district’s school system when she first arrived in the city. She was also the point person in the last round of contract negotiations, which gave the city greater leeway to pay, promote and fire people based on performance instead of seniority.”
* The Examiner reports ex-MPD chief Charles Ramsey “took the stand in federal court Thursday to testify that he did not order the arrests of 400 protesters at Pershing Park in 2002 and did not know what happened to the missing evidence from the event.” And the Post reports D.C. law enforcement officers “disguised themselves as a Latina woman and wrote letters to” Chandra Levy murder suspect Ingmar Guandique while he was in a California prison, hoping he “would confess his involvement in the slaying.”
* Greater Greater Washington says the WMATA Board of Directors “voted to ‘table’ any decision on reducing the price of SmarTrips and allowing negative balances, which essentially means SmarTrips will stay at $5 for now.” DCist says “a portion of Metro’s braintrust has concluded that the best available option” for SmarTrip “is just to let it be.”
* WTOP says ground has been broken on a 35-story Rosslyn skyscraper “that will soon be the region’s tallest building.”
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC