POLITICS

McDonnell plays it safe on national stage

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Politics,Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

TAMPA, Fla. - Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell didn't rock the boat with his speech at the Republican convention Tuesday night. He didn't rock the house either.

Instead, McDonnell delivered his traditional stump speech, safe but steady, highlighting Virginia's economic progress under his watch while touting the accomplishments of his fellow Republican executives.

"While the Obama Administration borrows over $3 billion a day just to keep the lights on, Republican governors have closed $65 billion in budget shortfalls, without raising taxes," McDonnell said. "In Virginia, over the last two years, with Republicans and Democrats working together, our unemployment rate is down over 20 percent to 5.9 percent."

McDonnell followed an impassioned pitch from Ohio Gov. John Kasich and came before Gov. Scott Walker, a conservative darling from Wisconsin who won over the crowd without trying. McDonnell chose to play the consummate party pro, hitting all the right partisan notes without overshadowing the night's top billing -- Ann Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

After coming out to Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son," McDonnell ripped into Vice President Biden for addressing a Virginia crowd by the wrong state.

"Imagine that, we'll have a president who actually knows how to create jobs, and a vice president who actually knows what state he's in," McDonnell joked.

Virginia enters the convention as a critical state on Republican Mitt Romney's re-election road map. There are few, if any, paths to victory for Romney unless he can turn Virginia red again after it voted Democrat for the first time in half a century in 2008.

That fact was underscored when state Del. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean, was chosen to second the motion to nominate Romney as the Republican Party's presidential candidate. Comstock also was given a speaking slot.

President Obama's Virginia campaign quickly criticized McDonnell's remarks for failing to mention the federal government's role in the state's recovery.

"It's hard to take Gov. McDonnell's attacks on the president's policies seriously when he admitted recently that those same policies of cutting taxes for the middle class and small businesses, investing in infrastructure, and supporting education have helped strengthen Virginia's economy," said spokeswoman Marianne von Nordeck.

McDonnell played up his grandfather's immigrant roots and his own military background during his moment in the spotlight, though it's unclear where his political career goes from here. He's barred by state law from running again for governor in 2013, and while he made the shortlist for Romney's running mate, he was ultimately passed up for Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

But McDonnell, the ultimate team player, has been nothing but supportive of the Romney-Ryan ticket and offered hope a vision of what they can deliver for Republicans.

"We don't have to just hope for change: We can make the change this November," McDonnell said. "We will restore that American Dream that brought my grandfather here from Ireland 100 years ago. And it all starts with electing Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan this November."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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