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Obama steals show
He stumps in Va. during governors event
Monday, July 16, 2012
WILLIAMSBURG (AP) — Gov. Bob McDonnell had one last turn on the national stage as host of the weekend midsummer retreat of U.S. governors as a potential vice presidential running mate for Republican Mitt Romney. Then President Barack Obama upstaged him.
For nearly a year, McDonnell’s National Governors Association host team raised $1 million in private cash and organized a detailed itinerary of high-profile panels.
The bipartisan gathering with national press attention gave McDonnell and other Republican governors the perfect opportunity to score points for Romney and flay Obama on health reform, a torpid economy, and mounting federal debt without looking shrill or partisan.
So Obama bracketed the NGA weekend with five Virginia campaign stops Friday and Saturday, check-mating McDonnell in his big moment.
Speculation about the fresh-faced, socially conservative governor on a national ticket began the night in November 2009 he won the election in a rout, an abrupt turnaround in a state where Obama had led a triumphant Democratic sweep one year before.
With polls showing that nearly two in three Virginians approve of his performance, the new champion of the Republican right stayed quiet about his leanings in the GOP presidential primary until the day his friend, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, folded his campaign.
McDonnell endorsed Romney just before January’s GOP primary in South Carolina, where conservatives skeptical of the former Massachusetts governor who instituted a government-backed health care plan gave Newt Gingrich an upset victory. McDonnell began traveling the country and appearing on television as a Romney proxy. They seemed a good fit with McDonnell lending Romney credibility among the Republican right in the South, particularly Virginia.
The weeks that followed were unkind to McDonnell. The thoroughly Republican General Assembly was on the verge of passing a bill that would have mandated vaginally invasive ultrasound exams for women seeking abortions. Virginia, its Republicans and McDonnell became a national punch line after television comedians, including “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” lampooned the bill. Hundreds of outraged women gathered on Capitol Square to protest to the measure.
By March, a Quinnipiac University poll showed that McDonnell’s job-approval rating had slid from a rosy 62 percent in October to 53 percent.