Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell campaigned with Mitt Romney in the state this week, enhancing his profile as a potential vice presidential pick. A popular pro-life battleground state governor, McDonnell's credentials include military service, stints as a prosecutor and state attorney general as well as overseeing a major drop in unemployment in his state during his term.
McDonnell's name on the GOP ticket could help Romney deliver a state that he described as one that "decides who the next president is" this fall, but recent controversies may also hurt McDonnell's chances of being picked.
The son of an Air Force officer, McDonnell, 57, was born in Philadelphia, but spent the majority of his childhood in Fairfax, Va., aside from four years he lived overseas while his father was stationed in Germany.
McDonnell, a Catholic, played football in high school and even boasts of scoring his school's lone touchdown against the legendary 1971 T.C. Williams Titans featured in the film "Remember the Titans." He attended the University of Notre Dame on an ROTC scholarship and enlisted in the Army upon graduation, serving as a medical supply officer in Germany and Newport News, Va. He was in the Army Reserves until 1997, when he retired as a lieutenant colonel.
McDonnell married his wife, Maureen, in 1976, and the couple had five children – three daughters and two twin sons. His oldest daughter, Jeanine, served as an Army officer in Iraq.
While in the Army, McDonnell attended night school and obtained an Masters of Science in Business Administration from Boston University, which he put to use when he left active duty and began working for a Fortune 500 medical supply company. The young McDonnell moved his family around the country from Virginia to Atlanta to Chicago to Kansas City, before returning back to settle in Virginia Beach while he attended Regent University. Qualifying for the GI Bill, he simultaneously worked on a Masters in public policy while obtaining a law degree and working as a sales manager for a local newspaper.
McDonnell submitted a thesis while in graduate school which later drew scrutiny when he became a public official. The thesis focused on protecting American families and described women who worked as "detrimental" to the family along with saying the government should favor married couples and criticizing a Supreme Court case which legalized the use of contraception by unwed couples.
In a statement to the Washington Post in 2009, McDonnell said of his thesis: "Like everybody, my views on many issues have changed as I have gotten older."
"Virginians will judge me on my 18-year record as a legislator and Attorney General and the specific plans I have laid out for our future -- not on a decades-old academic paper I wrote as a student during the Reagan era and haven't thought about in years," he said.
On the topic of women in the workplace, McDonnell said his previous comments were "simply an academic exercise and clearly does not reflect my views."
Upon graduation from law school in 1989, McDonnell began working as a prosecutor at the Virginia Beach Commonwealth's Attorney's Office before running for the Virginia House of Delegates against a 20-year incumbent, beating him by six points, beginning his undefeated electoral streak in 1991.