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Virginia Notebook: Where Is McDonnell From?

Anita Kumar

In campaign literature mailed recently to Northern Virginia residents, Robert F. McDonnell touts himself as a "governor that Fairfax County families can be proud to call their own." In another mailer sent to Hampton Roads residents, he touts himself as "a governor Virginia Beach can be proud to call our own."

But McDonnell, the Republican nominee for governor, doesn't live in Fairfax or Virginia Beach. He lives in Henrico County, just outside Richmond.

McDonnell grew up in Fairfax, represented Virginia Beach in the General Assembly for 14 years and then moved to Henrico when he was elected attorney general in 2005.

He has been campaigning aggressively in Virginia's suburban core, hoping his strong ties to the state's three most populous areas, and support from traditionally conservative rural areas, will give him enough votes to carry the state in November.

"I'm really the candidate who has really lived his whole life in suburbia," he said in a recent interview. "Fairfax and Virginia Beach, the two largest jurisdictions in the state, and now Henrico. I want to make sure that people know that's my background. I understand the problems of suburbia."

That has his Democratic opponent, R. Creigh Deeds, a state senator who hails from rural Bath County in the western part of the state, grumbling.

"When he's in Northern Virginia, he sends flowers that say 'I'm from Fairfax.' He sends flowers in Virginia Beach that say 'I'm from Virginia Beach,' " Deeds said. "He lives in Henrico County."

McDonnell ran nearly identical biographical television ads in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads in the spring. In Northern Virginia, he mentioned the "principles molded growing up in a middle-class Fairfax County neighborhood." In Hampton Roads, he mentioned "a family raised in a middle-class Hampton Roads neighborhood."

McDonnell stands by his ads and his strategy, saying the facts are on his side.

"I have strong connections in the two most populous areas of the state,'' he said. Deeds "may not like that, but it's true. ... It's a consistent biography."

Democrats complain that McDonnell's modus operandi is to try to appeal to everyone, instead of standing up for who he is.

At a recent candidates forum, he tried to relate to a roomful of farmers by telling them that his childhood neighborhood in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax was once part of George Washington's farm and that he represented rural south Virginia Beach in the House of Delegates. Both statements are true.

"This is part of a trend," said Nathan Daschle, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association. "Bob McDonnell is trying to be all things to all people."

Daschle said McDonnell does the same thing when he talks about issues. He pushed conservative social issues as a state legislator but in the governor's race has tried to follow the lead of recent successful statewide candidates -- all of whom happen to be moderate Democrats, including U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and James Webb -- and tout more centrist issues.

Phil Musser, a political consultant who works to elect Republican governors nationwide, praised McDonnell for reaching out to different people. "Let's remember, if you are elected, you are governor of all the people, not just some of the people."

Deeds said McDonnell is trying to paint himself a certain way, but his values differ from those of a majority of Virginians, particularly in suburban areas such as Northern Virginia. This week, Deeds began attacking McDonnell's record of working to restrict abortions, to highlight those values.

"My opponent has the wrong priorities for Virginia," Deeds said. "He's consistently pursued a divisive social agenda while blocking transportation solutions and taking money away from our schools."

Craig Bieber, a longtime Democratic political consultant, said McDonnell's strategy "speaks to the importance of the middle-income suburban voters to the outcome of this election." Bieber said suburban voters make up well over half of the state's electorate and might decide the election.

Deeds's strategy includes winning Northern Virginia, along with moderate support in the state's traditionally more conservative rural areas. McDonnell's strategy includes winning rural areas, along with moderate support in suburban areas such as Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

Nick Ayers, executive director of the Republican Governors Association, has described McDonnell as "an incredibly strong candidate," partly because of his connections to the state's two most populated areas, Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, as well as his prior success in running a statewide campaign and his high approval ratings.

McDonnell narrowly beat Deeds in the 2005 attorney general's race, partly by winning the outer suburbs of Prince William and Loudoun counties.

"Any time you can slice into the other guy's margin, it can make or break the race,'' said Democratic strategist Kristian Denny Todd, who worked on Webb's 2006 campaign.

By Anita Kumar  |  August 13, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Anita Kumar , Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Next: Does Deeds Play Follow the Leader?


"but his values differ from those of a majority of Virginians, particularly in suburban areas such as Northern Virginia"\

Hallelujah! That is true. Let's not forget, voters in Northern Virginia are very fair-minded and voted to REJECT the discrimatory Marshall-Newmann Amendment in 2006. Bob McDonnell cannot run and hide form who he really is, because he's been doing it for 20 years in the shadow of Pat Robertson...

Posted by: DouginMountVernon | August 13, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

A Virginian-Pilot newspaper column didn't coin the phrase "Taliban Bob" for no reason! His values on social issues are so far outside the mainstream that he is more in line with the Taliban than the average Virginia voter.

This is why the Deeds campaign has been talking about McDonnell's past on choice issues....he is draconian in his values, and Virginia voters are not....I know they're not the same all over the state, but the moderate suburban voters that McDonnell thinks he's going to sway are not going to like where McDonnell really is....esecially women voters.

Posted by: DouginMountVernon | August 13, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Please. Is this all Deeds has? Does this have any relevance to the daily lives of Virginians? Got any real policies to discuss? Pathetic.

Posted by: LivinginthePromisedLand | August 13, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Give it up leftist water carrying comPost, McDonnell has this thing in the bag..

Posted by: SMWE357 | August 13, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

"Now, the man on the stand he wants my vote,
He's a-runnin' for office on the ballot note.
He's out there preachin' in front of the steeple,
Tellin' me he loves all kinds-a people.
(He's eatin' bagels
He's eatin' pizza
He's eatin' chitlins
He's eatin' b******t!)"

I Shall Be Free by Bob Dylan

Posted by: kguy1 | August 13, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I heard McDonnell wasn't born in the US. Has he produced a birth certificate?

Posted by: dbax | August 13, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

To answer the question, McDonnell is from Pat Robertson's Regent University. "Taliban Bob" is an apt description of McDonnell, and Regent U can be described as a NEOCON factory. Thank God, Virginia is no longer cloaked under MASSIVE RESISTANCE and the Mid-evil world view of keeping Women (in their place). I'm afraid McDonnell wants to take us back to those so-called, GOOD OLE DAYS. NOT THIS TIME! I wouldn't vote for him, if he was the only one running!!!

Posted by: idallasj11 | August 13, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Idallasj11 makes an excellent case for the need to strengthen public education.

Posted by: VABlogger | August 13, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

What a waste of space!! Is it possible for The Washington Post to say one positive thing about McDonnell? He obviously has ties to both of those places. Did I miss something? Has anyone been to Bath County?? I have many times. It is a really 'progressive' area! LOL

Posted by: maddogjts | August 13, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Let's start keeping track. So far the WaPo has written that Bob McDonnell . . .

1. Didn't say that he was a fan of Sonia Sotomayor. Of course, he didn't say he wasn't a fan, either.

2. He's pro-life. Not sure what the Governor of Virginia being pro-life has to do with established federal abortion law but it's sure worth a shot.

3. His campaign literature references two places in Virginia where he has previously lived. Frankly, I rightfully call several places in Virginia "home", too.

Keep it coming, WaPo, because it's pretty lame if that's all you and Deeds have got.

Posted by: JackESpratt | August 13, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Deeds is in trouble if this is all he has to point at McDonnell.

Posted by: 12oreo | August 13, 2009 8:01 PM | Report abuse

McDonnell is for HOT Lanes, that is turning the HOV lanes, that you and I travel in, in hybrids or three to a car or sixty to a bus, into pay per pleasure ride lanes for his wealthy friends.

This HOT lane idea isn't green nor is it a gas savings. I would be subsized by large companies willing to pay their workers extra for the toll to work.

McDonnell is bad news for Virginia.

Posted by: SueMVetforObama | August 13, 2009 8:22 PM | Report abuse

wow! first we had some comments from some idiot on the Arlington School Board and now this nonsense? Mr. Deeds must be in trouble.

Posted by: loudountaxrevolt | August 13, 2009 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Keeping traffic moving isn't "green" SMVO? Wonderful, being able to change the bar at a whim. i KNOW my car & bike are more efficient when they're actually not stopped :)

He's being, at worst, disingenuous. Wow. Politician news alert update.

I voted for Deeds in the primary, as he's the best Democrat, and seemed somewhat sensible compared to the carpetbagger looking to ride on the coat tails.

Oh, and while I've not bothered to look it up idallasj11, I'm pretty sure it's "medieval". Nice slip to slide it to more common words, if I missed your joke!

It'll be interesting to see the efforts in both NJ and VA with these being "bellwether" gubernatorial elections...

Posted by: ch3k | August 13, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

You know, I would love to be able to actually consider a GOP candidate one of these days. Instead, I get Bob McDonnell.
- Regent University graduate
- Stupid transportation plan which essentially taxes future education funding to build a few improvements today. Hardly solves any problems.
- Today unveiled a "crime" plan, with no details on how to pay for his new monitoring or drug courts.

So yeah, looks like Deeds will get my vote by default, because the GOP has once again put out an Christian Taliban member who can only figure out how to hand out state run entities to private interests (liquor stores, HOT lanes).

By the way, isn't he the damn AG? Why isn't his crime plan already in motion?

Posted by: BurtReynolds | August 13, 2009 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Let's get Virginia back in front by helping President Obama turn back the Anti-Christ tide which gave us Bush's 9/11 and the RC bloc on the SCOTUS which illegally appointed him POTUS.

Pat Robertson's "Christian Coalition" was designed to bring cracker racist "charismatics" into alliance with the Roman Anti-Christ's "Fifth Column" which has assassinated our leaders, lied us into false war, debased our currency and molested our children.

Virginia was "mission country" for Rome up into the Seventies and Virginia's whigs created America..."whig" means "anti-Roman Catholic."

McDonnell is from the only parts of Virginia his co-religionists dominate: in Fairfax where all the Roman Catholics in the CIA live and around the naval installations and brothels serving them in Virginia Beach.

Get back to the Whig Principles upon which Virginia and America were founded: elect an American and a Virginian as Governor - Elect Deeds and let those who yet wish to serve Babylon spin their lies and perversions to others.

Posted by: iamerican | August 14, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

McDonnell is a consumate politician, all things to all people. As a Republican, he runs on a limited government platform that says government is the enemy and should get off the backs of private industry and small businesses. At the same time, he is against labor unions and working men and women and supports the Va Right to Work for Less laws and against passage of EFCA. So this libertarian conservative is totally in favor of the strong-arm of government keeping workers in their place.

I thought limited government would mean limiting government for everyone McDonnell. How come you are only for limited government for the VA Chamber of Commerce and not the men and women who work for those companies? Huh Bob?

Posted by: peter49 | August 14, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

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