Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has been working away from the spotlight to elect Republican candidates this cycle, and his efforts could pay dividends if he chooses to run for higher office.
McDonnell has traveled around the country to appear at fundraising events for a dozen gubernatorial candidates, four Senate candidates and every major Republican campaign committee, according to a spokesman for the governor. He’s raised some $2.5 million for the beneficiaries through his appearances.
In Virginia, McDonnell has raised money and campaigned for nine of the House incumbents and challengers in the state. The only two Virginia Republicans he hasn’t raised money for are Reps. Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteLobbying world Overnight Tech: Judiciary leaders question internet transition plan | Clinton to talk tech policy | Snowden's robot | Trump's big digital push Overnight Finance: Anxiety grows over Brexit vote | Investors prefer Trump to Clinton in poll | Key chairman open to censuring IRS chief MORE and Eric CantorEric CantorLobbying world The Trail 2016: 11 hours, 800 pages, 0 changed minds Juan Williams: The capitulation of Paul Ryan MORE, both of whom hold safe GOP seats.
McDonnell’s efforts haven’t generated the kind of White House speculation that’s surrounded New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) campaigning this cycle, despite their similarities.
Both men ran effective campaigns to win back governors' mansions from Democrats in 2009, but Christie’s star has risen faster in their first year in office.
Other former Virginia governors, including George Allen (R) and Sen. Mark WarnerMark WarnerOvernight Cybersecurity: Calls grow for encryption panel Homeland Security Committee pushes encryption commission in new report The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Va.), launched successful bids for the upper chamber. At various points in their career, both Warner and Allen mulled presidential runs.
Warner was elected to the Senate in 2008, and Allen may run again for the Senate in 2012.
McDonnell is unlikely to run for president in 2012, but could be eyed as a vice presidential candidate in order to win the crucial state of Virginia. President Obama won the commonwealth by six percentage points over Sen. John McCainJohn McCainBush World goes for Clinton, but will a former president? GOP senator: Trump could lose Arizona Senate panel passes bill that would create 4K visas for Afghans MORE (R-Ariz.) in 2008.
Businessman Keith Fimian, who’s challenging Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerry ConnollyDemocrats stage protest during brief House session 3 rays of sunshine on Pentagon foreign aid Dem protest ignites debate about control of House cameras MORE (D-Va.), said he’s gotten “tons” of help from McDonnell.
“It’s been great,” he said, noting the governor held two fundraisers for him in the last two months of the campaign. “Bob’s a very busy guy. He’s in high demand, so we never expected to have him come more than twice.”
Car dealer Scott RigellScott RigellGun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA House Republicans pushing gun control bill Overnight Regulation: Deadlocked court delivers blow to Obama immigration actions MORE, Rep. Glenn Nye’s (D-Va.) challenger, considers McDonnell an old friend.
“He’s been the featured guest at my birthday party last year in the primary, which is wonderful,” he said. “He’s introduced me to some of his friends. He’s been helpful.”
The governor also raised money for Rigell, recorded a robo-call and appeared at a Monday-night get-out-the-vote rally with him in Virginia Beach.
“I don’t think his presence in the governor’s mansion in and of itself is the deciding factor, but it’s a clear indication that people are ready to trust Republican leadership that has clear principles and has the right ideas,” he said.
Rigell said he even occasionally referenced McDonnell in his stump speeches. “He’s setting a wonderful example at the state level as governor for really what needs to happen in Washington.”
State Sen. Robert HurtRobert HurtOvernight Regulation: Supreme Court rejects GOP redistricting challenge Supreme Court rejects GOP challenge to Va. redistricting plan Supreme Court weighs legality of Virginia redistricting MORE, Rep. Tom Perriello’s (D-Va.) Republican challenger, has also benefited from the governors’ help.
Hurt called McDonnell’s involvement “a huge asset to our campaign.”