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Analysis: McDonnell, O'Malley Take Different Stages At RNC

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell speaks at the Republican National Convention in Tampa Aug. 28.
Brendan Sweeney
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell speaks at the Republican National Convention in Tampa Aug. 28.

Much of the focus at the Republican National Convention last night was on Ann Romney and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, but Virginia's governor Bob McDonnell took the stage as well for a speech focused on the economy. As chairman of the Virginia Governor's Association, McDonnell also trumpeted the successes of his colleagues.

Reid Wilson, editor-in-chief of the National Journal Hotline talks with WAMU Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey about McDonnell's growing prominence on a national political stage as well as the roles other local politicians are playing — or not playing — at the conventions.

On McDonnell's relatively low-key tone compared to others who spoke Tuesday: "The delegates themselves saw this sort of this rotating list of characters coming out, going in, giving their speech and walking off. And I've gotta say, McDonnell's speech was not one that would light up the entire world," Wilson says. "It was a good solid conservative speech, but it wasn't something you're going to see on the nightly news."

Whether McDonnell's comment on The Kojo Nnamdi Show that this election will ultimately be won in Virginia on economic issues, not social ones, is accurate:  "I think this is all about talking about the thing that benefits you the most. Virginia is a state that has changed so much in the past decade or two decades. What was a very conservative, very deeply southern state is much more dominated by the more liberal Northern Virginia suburbs and the growing urban area around Richmond," Wilson says. "So i think what we're seeing is Democrats actually do want to talk about social issues now. And of course, Republicans want to talk about how lousy the economy is. 

How McDonnell will reconcile Virginia's good economic situation with criticism of the president: "This of course puts Bob McDonnell in an interesting position because he has to talk about how lousy President Obama has made the economy while talking about how great he has made the economy," Wilson says. "It's sort of an incongruous argument that governors in states like Florida and Ohio and Virginia are having to make."

Whether Gov. Tim Kaine's appearance at the DNC will give him an edge over his opponent in the Virginia Senate race, Sen. George Allen, who is skipping his party's convention: "No I don't think so … George Allen doesn't really get much by coming down here and being a part of the Republican festivities," Wilson says. "Tim Kaine … it would just look a little weird if the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee didn't show up at the Democratic National Convention that he himself helped arrange. So I think Kaine kind of has to be in Charlotte by necessity, whereas George Allen would probably spend his time better campaigning up in Virginia."

On the effectiveness of Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's (D) appearance at the RNC as a counterpoint to the conservative rhetoric:  "Well, it's something that reporters like to do. They like to put both sides of the argument in a story. So if you've got a bunch of Republicans running around and no Democrats, you're only going to get one side of the story," Wilson says. "So both sides send top surrogates down. I ran into the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, yesterday. O'Malley was here. The chair of the Democratic National Committee had plans to be here. Even Vice President Joe Biden planned to be in Tampa on Monday, but he cancelled after the weather took a turn for the worse. So this counter-programming is normal, and I think it speaks to the fact that O'Malley is becoming one of the more prominent voices in the Democratic Party."


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