Romney campaigns in Virginia; veep speculation shifts to McDonnell

Mitt Romney is campaigning in Virginia this week with the state's governor, Bob McDonnell, in a presumed tryout to become the future Republican nominee's running mate.

McDonnell, who has served as chairman of the Republican Governors Association since 2011, is restricted from running for a second term as governor under Virginia state law, so he just might be open for a new job before his term concludes in 2013. He said in an interview in August that he would be "very interested" in running as vice president.

But these days, McDonnell almost always shrugs off the suggestion that he's vying for the slot—he loves to invoke the founding fathers with the line, "I got the job held by Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. Governor of Virginia. Doesn't get any better than that." Still, there are signs that suggest he's vying for the post.

McDonnell puzzled longtime observers last week when his political action committee paid to air what appears to be a campaign ad for the governor. A governor, that is, who isn't running for another term. When pressed about possible ulterior motives behind the ad, which aims to boost McDonnell's economic record, the governor and his allies claimed innocence.

"We are always looking for new ways to tell the great story about all the positive things happening in Virginia," McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Beyond the speculation game, McDonnell could serve as an important asset on a Romney ticket, possibly increasing Republicans' chances of taking back Virginia, a state that went blue for Obama in 2008. (A Public Policy Polling survey released this week, however, suggested that for now, McDonnell would struggle to deliver his home state, showing President Barack Obama still defeating a Romney-McDonnell ticket in Virginia.)

Regarding his fiscal record, McDonnell would bring a list of accomplishments to the ticket, including presiding over a state with a relatively low unemployment rate that boasted a budget surplus of more than half a billion dollars last year. He could also appeal to social conservatives, having overseen the passage of a bill that requires women to have an ultrasound before undergoing an abortion. The new law, which became the topic of a national debate earlier this year, could also sway more liberal independents to the Democratic ticket, which is something Romney will surely weigh when making his decision.

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