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McDonnell: The Next Mark Warner?

Rosalind Helderman

So, which gubernatorial candidate is most like Mark Warner? Mark Warner would tell you it's fellow Democrat Creigh Deeds. But, increasingly, Bob McDonnell, with his business degree and his roots in Northern Virginia, would have you believe it's him.

Today, he rolls out another piece of his strategy to overtake Deeds' claim to the Warner legacy: Endorsements from a group of former elected officials, business leaders and other activists who have been Warner supporters.

Taking a page directly from the Warner playbook, he's calling the group "Virginians for McDonnell," a title taken directly from the bipartisan "Virginians for Warner" group announced about this time in 2001.

These figures are primarily Republicans who backed Warner and are now coming home to the Republican nominee. In that sense, it may not be that terribly surprising that they are now supporting McDonnell.

But, on the other hand, Warner was able to win by building a bipartisan coalition and persuading moderate Republicans he was their guy. Deeds would like to do the same. McDonnell would say today's endorsements mean Democrats have lost their hold on such moderates.

The endorsers include Judy Ford Wason, a former RNC member and staffer in the Reagan White House, who made headlines when she agreed in 2001 to head Virginians for Warner. In a release, she said she was endorsing McDonnell because of his business background and his ability to work across party lines.

"We need elected officials who have demonstrated their ability to lead and their experience in achieving positive results," she said in a statement.

They also include George C. Newstrom, a Fairfax businessman who served as Warner's Secretary of Technology and Jane Wood, a Republican delegate and senator from Fairfax who served as Warner's Secretary of Health and Human Resources. McDonnell also picked up support from Wyatt Durette, a Republican who ran for attorney general and governor but endorsed both Warner and Gov. Tim Kaine, as well as the rectors of both Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia.

Read the whole release here.

UPDATE: We're getting response from the Democratic Party of Virginia now to this announcement. They say in a release that McDonnell is trying to undergo a political makeover and hide his efforts to block Warner initiatives. "Creigh Deeds is what he always has been: an authentic, common-sense leader with a long record of working across party lines to get things done," said DPV spokesman Jared Leopold in a statement. "Unlike Bob, Creigh doesn't need a political makeover to be a common-sense Virginia leader."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 15, 2009; 2:37 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Mark Warner , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , Timothy M. Kaine  
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