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Romney, a Mormon, would be a tough pill for evangelicals to swallow, and a consistently pro-life Catholic who earned a graduate degree and a law degree from Regent University, as McDonnell did, would give conservative evangelicals a reason to be excited about the GOP ticket.
Of course, McDonnell is from Virginia, one of a dozen or so states that are often identified as the keys to the 2012 presidential election. President Barack Obama can win a second term without winning Virginia’s electoral votes, but it’s hard to see any Republican winning the White House in 2012 without carrying Virginia (and neighboring North Carolina).
If McConnell can guarantee that the GOP carried the Old Dominion, he would surely be an asset on the ticket.
If there is a negative to adding McDonnell to a Republican ticket led by Romney, it’s the Virginian’s “look.”
Romney and McDonnell look like two peas in a pod — a couple of white guys with perfectly combed hair. Each resembles a figure on a wedding cake.
In 1992, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, two Southern Democrats about the same age (two years apart) ran on a generational message of change. It worked for them, but against a Democratic ticket led by a 50-year-old Obama, a GOP ticket of Romney, 64, and McDonnell, 57, might look awfully bland.
Of course, McDonnell’s ultimate appeal as a running mate would depend, at least to some extent, on his relationship with the person in the top spot.
Today’s voting in Virginia will have an effect on Congressional redistricting and McDonnell’s reputation.
Like all local reporters, even Washington, D.C.-based reporters are likely to hype the story of the “local” politician, and the growth of the Northern Virginia suburbs makes almost any statewide development in the Old Dominion a local issue for media in the nation’s capital. In other words, tonight’s results certainly will be examined in light of their effect on McDonnell’s political future.
But the governor’s prospects of joining the national GOP ticket next year probably depend on other matters than whether his party wins the state Senate later today. Win or lose, McDonnell is sure to get a look by his party’s nominee for the White House.
Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.