Fresh off big legislative victories, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is already flexing his endorsement power in the 2012 races.
McDonnell sent a letter Friday morning to supporters of Republican U.S. Senate candidate George Allen and followed it up with a public statement backing Allen’s candidacy even though Allen still has several Republican challengers competing for the party's nomination.
McDonnell served in the legislature when Allen was governor from 1994 to 1998.
“George has always looked for innovative and bold solutions to help improve the lives of our fellow citizens. He did that as governor and as senator,” McDonnell said. "And we need George Allen's optimistic, results-oriented leadership working for us in Washington again.”
McDonnell’s support for Allen is not a surprise and it’s far from the most anticipated 2012 endorsement still to come from the popular Republican. The GOP presidential field is eagerly waiting to see who McDonnell backs, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have all called to ask about it.
McDonnell previously said he wouldn’t make a decision on a presidential contender until after this week's legislative elections. Even then, he’s not sure whether it would be prudent for a chairman of the Republican Governors Association to make an endorsement, although he did say he would prefer a current or former governor for the job.
Five Republicans are vying for the party’s Senate nomination in the June primary, including several candidates hoping to position themselves to the right of Allen. McDonnell’s endorsement, though not shocking, helps paint Allen as a strong fiscal and social conservative in the face of Tea Party opposition.
Allen is likely to face former Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine in the race for the seat of retiring Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va.