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Where in the World is Bob McDonnell?

Tim Craig

With the election a week away, nearly every major state GOP official is busy scrambling to line up for votes for Republican state legislative candidates.

After suffering losses in the last three statewide elections, many GOP leaders say the outcome of Tuesday's vote will be a critical test of the party's resiliency in traditionally conservative Virginia.

This year's campaign is also a precursor to the 2009 governor's race. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R), Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell and former governors James S. Gilmore III and George Allen have all been mentioned as possible GOP candidates for governor.

Over the past week, Bolling has essentially cleared his scheduled to campaign for GOP candidates. Gilmore and Allen are also out on the campaign trail. But McDonnell has been noticeably absent.

McDonnell left the country last Wednesday for a 10-day trip to Israel sponsored by Israel and the American-Israel Friendship League.

J. Tucker Martin, a McDonnell spokesman, called it "a very important trip" because McDonnell is being briefed on Israel's efforts to combat crime and terrorism. Yesterday, McDonnell met with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"They are on the edge of the war on terror," Martin said of Israel. "With all the risks we face in Virginia, it's probably a good thing for the attorney general to be there."

Martin said the trip was originally scheduled to be held earlier this year, but was rescheduled for this month. "The timing was not what we preferred, but we needed to attend," Martin said.

Because the stakes are high in next week's legislative elections, McDonnell's absence could become fodder for activists who support one of his rivals for the GOP nomination for governor.

But Martin stresses McDonnell has been heavily involved in supporting GOP candidates for most of the year. Between June and early October, McDonnell has attended or hosted dozens of events for candidates, Martin said.

McDonnell also plans to hop back onto the campaign trail when he returns from Israel Friday morning. "The (McDonnell) organization continues to work harder than ever for candidates," Martin said.

By Tim Craig  |  October 30, 2007; 3:25 PM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig  
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