November 5th, 2009
05:15 AM ET
4 years ago

Bob McDonnell: The GOP's newest superstar?

Republicans are pointing to Bob McDonnell's winning formula in Virginia as a way forward for the GOP.
Republicans are pointing to Bob McDonnell's winning formula in Virginia as a way forward for the GOP.

RICHMOND, Virginia (CNN) – He has yet to been sworn in as the 71st governor of Virginia, but the Republican Party appears to have found its newest superstar in Bob McDonnell.

With his resounding win Tuesday in the battleground state of Virginia - a victory that halted a decade of gains for Democrats - top Republicans are boasting that McDonnell has uncovered a winning GOP formula for 2010 and beyond.

The blueprint, his supporters argue, is fairly simple: stay loyal to conservative principles, maintain a personal appeal that connects with voters, and focus like a laser on kitchen table issues.

Throughout the governor's race, Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds flogged McDonnell as a divisive social conservative preoccupied with issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and birth control. But McDonnell beat back those attacks by concentrating on the troubled economy with a simple message: "Bob's for Jobs."

"McDonnell is a candidate who is very conservative, but he's while he's philosophically sound, he's temperamentally moderate," said Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition director who is a longtime friend of McDonnell's. "He's a consensus builder. He's a reasonable guy. I think that's the kind of face Republicans need to start putting forward."

Some Republicans in Washington are already chattering about how McDonnell could boost the 2012 Republican ticket as a vice presidential candidate, a scenario that might put Virginia back in the GOP column after Barack Obama won the state in 2008. Others believe he could be a presidential candidate himself down the road.

McDonnell, who doesn't take office until January, waved off the speculation on Wednesday.

"There's a lot of Kool-Aid in Washington," he joked during a press conference in Richmond. "I'm going to let folks talk about whatever they might want to talk about, but I'm going to be focused on Virginia."

Fred Malek, a prominent Republican fundraiser and party insider who spent Election Night in Richmond with McDonnell, agreed that it's too early to speculate about the governor-elect's political future. But he said he expects Republicans around the country to welcome McDonnell as a campaigner and fundraiser for years to come.

"He's going to be one of the biggest stars in the Republican Party, as someone who showed the direction of what it takes to win as a Republican," Malek told CNN.

That sentiment was echoed by former Virginia Sen. George Allen, who himself was a rising GOP star before stumbling in his 2006 his re-election bid, losing narrowly to Democrat Jim Webb. Allen said he admired McDonnell's playbook because he made clear where he stood on divisive social issues, but chose not to put them at the center of his campaign.

McDonnell captured two-thirds of Virginia's crucial independent voters on Tuesday thanks to that strategy, Allen argued.

"Bob was advocating ideas of jobs, economy, energy, education and transportation that people cared about," he said. "The lesson from Bob's campaign is, offer ideas but keep your party united and attract independent voters."

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele trumpeted McDonnell's win Tuesday as the beginning of a Republican renaissance ahead of next year's midterms. But he wasn't quite ready to predict what the election means for McDonnell's role in the national party.

"That's yet to be determined," Steele told CNN. "Let's get him inaugurated first."


Filed under: Bob McDonnell • GOP • Popular Posts • Virginia
soundoff (78 Responses)
  1. Pragmatic

    This is the same (expletive deleted) crown who went ballistic over President Obama's Nobel Prize .... ranting and foaming at the mouth that the President hadn't done anything yet ....

    Now, McDonnell, less than 24 hours after wining a basically republican state is now "The Great White Hope" of the party ,... totally ignoring the fact the man has not accomplished one of his campaign promises!!!! The (your choice of adjective) has had almost a day .... and he hasn't done anything! What do you mean ... give him time! He's hasn't solved one problem yet and the GOP is running him for President!

    November 5, 2009 05:28 am at 5:28 am |
  2. GGG

    America has woke up!!! Fianally realizing that Obama is clueless along with Pelosi... Democrats are eating crow and spewing hate!!!!

    November 5, 2009 05:31 am at 5:31 am |
  3. Tom in Delaware

    Ah yes, the start of a new Leftist campaign to elevate yet another Republican to the ever-growing pool of possible presidential candidates.

    Let the man govern and just do his job for a change.

    November 5, 2009 05:43 am at 5:43 am |
  4. Runofthemill

    Just wait till he has to govern. Let's see how well those things like banning birth control go over once he's in office. Voters were fooled by the elction mask. The Virginia version of the "compassionate conservative" snow job. The only baffling thing is how short people's memories are. We've seen this act so many times, it is like the rubes falling for a shell game over and over and over again.

    If he fails to bring those conservative issues see how well the rightards who understood the lack of attention to old macdonalds extremust veiws was just a nod and wink to them and that he would get back to being a pat robertson devotee as soon as the votes were counted.

    He can either govern as a Democrat, which is how he ran, and thus isolate his own party, or he can govern as a republicon and isolate the 78% of the electorate who think republicons are a step or two below the level of foot fungus.

    November 5, 2009 06:03 am at 6:03 am |
  5. Willy Brown

    Obummer has blamed Bush for these peskey republicans wins in NJ & VA.

    November 5, 2009 06:10 am at 6:10 am |
  6. Jeff In Ohio

    "The blueprint, his supporters argue, is fairly simple: Make a little noise as possible about how you support causes of the right wing crazies while paying lip service to good governance."

    Yep, looks like a clear path for the Party of God: obfuscation and patronization.

    November 5, 2009 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  7. Marie MD

    A quick NO!!!
    Deeds ran a horrible campaign.
    I still can't understand why women would want to vote for this Neanderthal. His sons go to school. His daughters go to grandma's house!

    November 5, 2009 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  8. CH

    "McDonnell is a candidate who is very conservative, but he's while he's philosophically sound, he's temperamentally moderate," ... "He's a consensus builder. He's a reasonable guy. I think that's the kind of face Republicans need to start putting forward."

    He may be the kind of face the GOP needs, but Ralph Reed's comments make clear we are dealing with the heart of George Bush. ("Very conservative...philosophically sound." Really? Those of us who are not fundamentalists disagree.) No, thank you. We've had enough wolves in GOP clothing. We're still trying to clean up the mess the last bunch left.

    November 5, 2009 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  9. Scott, Tucson

    Na..the Superstars would be those people, Republicans or Democrats that will be replacing Pelosi, Reid, Dodd, Shumer, Boxer Barney Frank and the rest of the far left wing of the democratic party come 2010.

    November 5, 2009 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  10. independent Jim

    Anyone supported by Rex Reed is suspect. While chairman of a Christian coalition, Reed was responsible for helping funnel millions of dollars from gambling interests in Mississippi into the anti-lottery movement in Alabama. (Mississippi's casinos did not want competition with an Alabama lottery). Hardly a person of principle.

    November 5, 2009 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  11. Argon man

    The term "superstar" in the GOP is a pretty low bar these days. If somebody can fog a mirror and not put their foot in their moth for 24 hours they qualify.

    November 5, 2009 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  12. wolfgangpitbullingtonIII!

    Anybody but Obama!

    November 5, 2009 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  13. andrea

    Republicans will use any arguments which resonate with the voters to get elected but their sinister agenda is hidden behind the attractive rethoric: intolerance, social injustice, and a support for cut-throat capitalism.

    November 5, 2009 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  14. andrea

    Who is the typical American independent voter? He is white, middle or working class, relatively uneducated, devoid of philosophical beliefs, social conscience, or patriotism but brimming with selfishness. His only concerns are his wallet and his stomach.

    November 5, 2009 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  15. TangledThorns

    I voted for McDonnell and he has a lot of great qualities but lets see how he does as governor first. One thing is for sure, many campaigns will try to follow his positive model this year.

    November 5, 2009 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  16. Pol watcher in SC

    Are they going to start grooming him for Prez now?

    November 5, 2009 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  17. Dave

    Yeah, right. There's going to be plenty of buyer's remorse when he suddenly decides to implement his ultra-right-wing whacko social agenda. It will be just like it was with Gilmore – suffocate the state budget; watch services, education and transporation decline; and then elect a democrat to clean up the mess. Seems pretty typical these days...

    November 5, 2009 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  18. Jim

    "McDonnell is a candidate who is very conservative, but he's while he's philosophically sound, he's temperamentally moderate," said Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition director who is a longtime friend of McDonnell's. "He's a consensus builder. He's a reasonable guy. I think that's the kind of face Republicans need to start putting forward."

    ----------------------------

    While I agree with this, he is not the typical candidate the GOP has been putting out. Hoffman on the NY 23 is a perfect example. If the GOP does put out more guys like McDonnell, they have a chance. Unfortunately the GOP base does not want to put these types on the national tickets.

    November 5, 2009 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  19. Mike

    He just won the election two days ago and he's a superstar???? Why don't we wait until he actually takes office and see what he can do. All he's proven so far is that he can beat a lackluster candidate who couldn't articulate what he stood for.

    November 5, 2009 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  20. Audrey in VA

    Thank goodness Virginians didn't fall for Deeds' scare tactics. Trying to incite fear in women voters was so exploitative! As a woman, I was insulted by Deeds' grossly distorting the thesis and trying to scare women into fearing McDonnell was going to take us back to the Dark Ages. Please!

    November 5, 2009 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  21. Suzan

    Two new Republican Govenors do not make a Republican President in the White House........remember the issues were State Issues.......the consevative movement will not take over this country.....the young were not present at the polls, that is normal during State elections, but national elections are different and they will be out in force 2012.....Palin is the death panel to the GOP, you want the independent vote and the moderate democratic vote then get rid of Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reily, and the Tea Baggers, racists, radicals and the far right wing religious nuts that carry your Party

    November 5, 2009 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  22. James Debate

    The Democrats made gains in the House the other day by retaining their seat in California and winning NY-23 from the Republicans. In what sense have these relatively inconsequential gubernatorial victories 'halted' Democratic gains?

    November 5, 2009 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  23. Jace

    Thing is he didn't stay loyal to conservative values. He ran pretty hard to the center, which that and NY23 show that's what Republicans have to do to when in this climate.

    November 5, 2009 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  24. DSH

    WHAT??? Republican renaissance? So they finally are admitting they are in the dark ages?

    November 5, 2009 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  25. ATL Guy

    Now that you've found your magic elixir, keep repeating it and you'll see the true results. This is a classic case of mistaking trees for the forest. The underlying story that's not being spoken of here is that for governorships, mayoral and local races, these voters are more concerned with local issues as opposed to national issues. The GOP would like everyone to ignore the fact that the Democrats picked up additional House seats on Election Day – these are the votes that matter when it comes to federal policy as opposed to Governor races. Also, I see the Republicans rushing to push O'Donnell out onto the national stage which will ultimately result in a backlash at home to him. It would be best for O'Donnell to keep his head close to home, do his job to the best of his ability and let the national GOP handle their own problems. He risks becoming Palinized if he begins to be used as a critic against the President.

    November 5, 2009 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
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