WASHINGTON (CNN) – Republican Bob McDonnell took a page from the Mark Warner playbook on Monday by announcing the formation of a group called "Virginians for McDonnell" - "a broad group of Democrats, Independents and Republicans" supporting his gubernatorial bid, according to his campaign.
The group is patterned after "Virginians for Warner," a committee of Republicans and independents that helped raise money for Mark Warner when he ran for governor in 2001 and for Senate in 2008. In both campaigns, Warner presented himself as a business-minded moderate who could rise above party politics.
McDonnell is taking a similarly pragmatic tack in 2009, even with a conservative voting record and ties to the religious right.
His rival in the race, Democrat Creigh Deeds, is a conservative Democrat who has pledged to follow in the footsteps of Warner and current governor Tim Kaine, both of whom remain popular among Virginia voters. Not surprisingly, Warner himself is sticking with his own party and supporting Deeds.
In 2008, the "Virginians for Warner" coalition counted among its ranks hundreds of Republican and independent officials.
But McDonnell's new group, which includes members from "Virginians for Warner," is considerably smaller: There are 22 members, a roster that includes a few Democrats but no major party figures holding elected office. Most of the group's members are independents and Republicans who supported Warner in the past but are now returning to the GOP fold.