McDonnell VP rumors swirl as Romney visits Virginia

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Photo - Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (C) arrives with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) during a campaign event at the Electronic Instrumentation and Technology company in Sterling. (Getty Images)
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (C) arrives with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) during a campaign event at the Electronic Instrumentation and Technology company in Sterling. (Getty Images)
Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

If the hype is to be believed, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will introduce his vice presidential pick to the country during a four-day bus tour of swing states that begins Saturday in Virginia.

That means Romney could be picking up Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to join his team for the long haul or stopping by just to tell McDonnell "thanks, but no thanks."

A source close to the governor told The Washington Examiner Thursday that McDonnell was vetted as a vice presidential contender by the Romney campaign and is likely on a list of candidates still under consideration. McDonnell's office would not comment on the speculation. In June, McDonnell said he was not being vetted but lately he has declined to answer questions about the VP selection process, deferring to Romney.

McDonnell will join Romney on his bus ride through Norfolk, Ashland and Manassas, crucial parts of the state's heavily populated golden crescent, which stretches from Northern Virginia to Hampton Roads.

"Looking at the itinerary, the Romney campaign is going to the right places with the right message," McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. "They're talking jobs and the economy in Virginia's three biggest media markets, and that's going to get them a lot of face time with voters in some of our most competitive cities and counties."

President Obama will counter Romney's visit by opening a campaign office near his Manassas visit and another in Sterling. Vice President Joe Biden will tour the southwest and southern Virginia on Tuesday.

Analysts suggest McDonnell is still a longshot for the VP slot. Though he's popular in a state Romney needs to win, McDonnell has been in office just three years and is a relatively new face in national political circles.

Democrats would like a chance to link Romney to legislation McDonnell backed requiring women to get an ultrasound before and abortion. Still, the Virginia governor remains a charismatic conservative with a good fundraising record as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Fifty-two percent of the state's voters still approve of McDonnell, a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

"I would really be surprised if he picks someone like McDonnell," said Joel Goldstein, a law professor at St. Louis University and author of the book "The Modern American Vice Presidency." "But usually the Republican pick is the surprise. It could be that McDonnell is one of the four or five people he's considering. Or it could be they're making a show because his favorables are good in Virginia, so it doesn't hurt Romney to have a popular figure next to him."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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