McDonnell Talks Super Tuesday
The Virginia governor discusses the kerfuffle over the ultrasound bill and why he’s supporting Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney and Bob McDonnell in October 2011


GERAGHTY: Virginia has had nonpartisan voting for a long time, making it a de facto open-primary state. On presidential-primary day 2008, I asked for a GOP ballot, and the guy behind the desk asked, “Why?” almost in disbelief, because I live in Alexandria, and there are almost no Republicans here. Do you ever see nonpartisan voting registration changing in Virginia? Are there some flaws to nonpartisan registration? Conceivably, Democrats can vote in Tuesday’s primary and vote for the candidate they think is less likely to beat Barack Obama.

MCDONNELL: There was some legislation this session to have party registration. I believe it’s been killed. I would support that, because I do think we’re at the point now where, while I want a big tent — and I want people of all conservative stripes to come in and be a part of our party — if a party doesn’t have the ability to control its nomination process for its candidates, it loses its ability to maintain itself as a party. You have seen efforts such as this in other states, and even by the Obama administration this time, knowing that Romney would be its strongest opponent, to try to have Democrats come in and vote for other candidates. That’s what happens. Now I have to say, those efforts are rarely successful. It’s hard to do, and it’s embarrassing when you get caught. But I do think the cleanest way to do that is to have party registration.

That’s what you do when you have a [state nominating] convention: You clearly are only going to have Republicans showing up at that. When you have people coming in who might actually be interested in undermining the process, that’s probably not good for the political parties on either side.

GERAGHTY: We’re days away from the primary, and yet it doesn’t feel as if it’s close to a presidential primary. Is enthusiasm down because only two candidates are on the ballot? Do you think turnout will be lower?

MCDONNELL: Absolutely. It is disappointing. I wish all four candidates were on the ballot. I want to have a good, vibrant democracy, and I want my candidate, Mitt Romney, to be able to beat the best candidates out there. Congressman Paul’s going to get his regular 20, 30 percent maybe. Because Speaker Gingrich and Senator Santorum won’t be on the ballot, their supporters will, I imagine, stay home. I do expect a lower turnout. We’re doing our part to make everybody in the Republican base knows there is a primary. We’d like them to come out and vote for Mitt Romney.

Unfortunately I do expect turnout to be lower, and unfortunately that means fewer self-identified Republicans who we can ask to get involved in our party process and be a volunteer in November.

GERAGHTY: Newt Gingrich not qualifying for the ballot in his home state — do you marvel at that? It still seems kind of unbelievable.

MCDONNELL: Somewhat. It just goes to show that there are many aspects to running a presidential campaign. Being a good candidate with a good message is one of them, but having money, organization, and a small army of volunteers to do all of the important tasks — from getting signatures to putting up the signs to manning the polls — is another very critical aspect. President Obama’s success in 2008 was in part due to his political operation; he had very significant financial resources and a very good ground game, matched with an enthusiastic candidate. If he hadn’t had all of those elements, he might have lost to Hillary Clinton or John McCain.

I think it is disappointing. If you can’t get 10,000 signatures, it’s hard to make the case you’re going to be able to run a government with millions of employees. Ten thousand signatures is not that hard.

GERAGHTY: Any predictions for Tuesday?

MCDONNELL: It’s hard to say. Congressman Paul has a very enthusiastic group of supporters. In most states in the country, that has ranged from 10, 12 percent to about 30 percent. I don’t know what that base number will be in Virginia. We just feel very confident that Governor Romney will do very well. The lieutenant governor and I are his leaders here in the state, and the organization is pretty good. At the end of the day, I believe Governor Romney is the right guy at the right time to solve the problems that this administration has failed to solve.

Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO.


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