Bob McDonnell Showcases Va. Economy as Romney Considers VP Choices
This report is part of our ongoing Divided by D.C. project, exploring two governors, two visions, one election year.
Gov. Bob McDonnell says Virginia can be a model for national economic success, a message he happens to be taking across his state, just as Mitt Romney is considering his options for a running mate.
McDonnell, a Republican elected in 2009, is showcasing Virginia’s 5.6 percent unemployment rate while highlighting his own efforts to bring new jobs to the state.
Politics Editor Christina Bellantoni and reporter-producer Cassie M. Chew recently joined McDonnell to cover a “jobs tour” in rural Southside Virginia. The governor told the NewsHour his efforts, rooted in conservative values, are the prescription for economic success.
“I would suggest that what we’re trying to do with Virginia is keep regulations low, limit lawsuits, provide great universities and just be positive about entrepreneurs, about people who create jobs and then, provide a little incentive money in tax credits and get companies to come and existing businesses to grow,” McDonnell said.
He pointed to two examples of companies bringing their business to the former tobacco region — consultant ICF International is expanding to a new site in Martinsville and manufacturing and engineering services firm EIT, last fall opened a second plant in Danville.
During the tour McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, dubbed the state’s “job creation officer,” assured business owners and workers of their commitment to transforming the economically struggling region to an ideal location for technology firms.
However, Brian Moran, Virginia State Democratic Party Chair, criticized the Republican for taking full credit for the state’s success.
“His two predecessors in the governorship were Democrats and those Democrats made critical investments in public education, workforce training and smart economic development,” Moran said. “That’s why Virginia enjoyed progress over those eight years. And the governor now is enjoying some of those benefits.”
Even as Virginia’s success at maintaing a low unemployment low has outstripped that of the rest of the country, Associated Press reporter Bob Lewis, who has covered Virginia for the past decade, says that McDonnell’s tour is part of an effort to gain visibility for his political future. His term as governor ends in 2013.
“His numbers in the latest polls have taken a hit. Now he has ambitions beyond Virginia. Namely, perhaps a spot on the ticket with Mitt Romney. So he’s down here beating his chest over some of the successes that he’s had creating jobs,” Lewis said.
McDonnell says that the former Massachusetts governor’s experiences in the private sector show Romney’s potential for creating jobs and reducing unemployment.
“That’s what we need right now with this unemployment rate, somebody who understands the American dream because he’s lived the American dream,” he said at a Republican Party barbecue in Danville. The event was meant to drum up support both for Romney and for Bolling’s expected 2013 gubernatorial bid.
Although their states lie adjacent, Virginia and Maryland and the two men in charge of governing them seem miles apart with respect to the public policy they say will put the spur economic development and help the country recover from the downturn of 2008. Through this project, NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman will track both McDonnell and Maryland’s Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, and the NewsHour politics team will ask voters in these states for their thoughts on the vision for government that they think is the better prescription for economic recovery.
Cassie M. Chew filmed the video of the jobs tour and produced this package.
Special thanks to reporter/producers Terence Burlij and Crispin Lopez, desk assistants Alex Bruns and Ryan C. Brooks, additional camera, Jackie Thompson and editors Dan Knapp, Todd Holme, Susanne Kersey, Mark Anderson and Bob Hartman, graphics by Mike Harry.