The Corner

McDonnell Talks 2012

Virginia governor Bob McDonnell (R) attended a rally in Fairfax, Va., on Tuesday, which featured an appearance by GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. State Republicans are campaigning aggressively in an effort to take control of the state senate in legislative elections to be held two weeks from now.

Democrats currently hold a 22–18 majority in the state senate, while Republicans control the state house. It would be a truly historic victory for the party. There have been only two years since the Civil War in which the GOP has controlled both legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion.

Virginia will also be a critical swing state in next year’s presidential election, which is one of the reasons why McDonnell is thought to be a top contender for the Republican VP slot. The governor shared some thoughts on the 2012 race with National Review Online.

McDonnell’s take on the presidential race is fairly straightforward. “I want to win,” he says. “Look, there are nine people on that stage, all of whom have ideas that would make them better leaders of the free world than the current incumbent in the White House.”

That said, as a governor, he’s partial to those who’ve also held the job. “Governors have to balance budgets, they’ve got to get stuff done on time, they’re held directly responsible for jobs, and they just can’t make excuses,” he says. “That’s what we need in America.”

Virgina, which Obama carried in 2008, is “clearly a state that either party can win,” says McDonnell. The governor likes the GOP’s chances. The key will be to win over independent voters, which are increasingly turned off by Obama’s actions over the past few years.

“The president’s gonna raise a ton of money. He’s a very good campaigner, but the difference now is he’s got a record, and that record ain’t good,” he says. “A 9.1 percent unemployment rate and the worst debt and deficits in the history of America — I wouldn’t wanna be campaigning on that record, and that’s gonna be the whole debate next year.”

McDonnell, who was elected in 2009 by an 18-point margin, won two-thirds of independents voters. He believes that his accomplishments as governor have paved the way for Republican success in the future. “We focused on the stuff that people care about in their individual lives: schools, roads, spending, jobs, the bread-and-butter stuff,” he says. “I think the type of governing we’ve seen in the last two years in Virginia will really help break the brand for the Republican candidate to win.”

On Gov. Rick Perry’s flat-tax proposal:

I like the concept of a flat tax. It’s a good one. Trying to get rid of as many of the preferences and loopholes, if you will, and expanding the base and flattening the rates and lowering the rates, I think that will stimulate economic activity. So I like the economic theory behind it. Governor Perry’s a very strong, pro-business governor, and I know he’s given a lot of thought to this before he rolled it out.

On Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan:

The challenge that I think he’s got is the real concern about adding a sales tax at the national level; that’s typically been a province of the states. But economically, again, it’s broadening the base, lowering rates, which I think overall for more people makes sense, and the good news about consumption-based taxes is you catch everybody. . . .

The income tax has so many challenges now that some estimate as much as 47 percent of Americans pay no appreciable income tax. That is horribly destructive for our country, when you have about half the people paying most of the tax bill. Because if you don’t have skin in the game, and you don’t have a dog in the fight you’re much less likely to care about the outcomes, and you want more spending for you because you’re not paying for it.