Back in November, I noted that the Republican victory in Virginia, winning several seats to claim a tie in the state Senate, could make things awkward for Gov. Bob McDonnell, a leading vice presidential prospect. He had campaigned hard to pick up the seats and could claim affirmation in the win, but he was also going to face a challenge in maintaining his image as a moderate, business-minded Republican whose days decrying working mothers and “fornicators” were long behind him. Simply put, with Republicans now in effective control of the state Senate (thanks to the tie-breaking vote of the lieutenant governor), the far-right bills that the GOP-controlled House of Delegates was passing on a regular basis now had a good chance of actually making it to McDonnell's desk. McDonnell was well aware of the risk: “Don’t be arrogant, don’t overreach, don’t fight,” he told Republican legislators after the election.
Well, it hasn’t taken long for legislators to ignore McDonnell’s warning. The Washington Post reports on its front page today that the state Senate passed a bill that would require women to have an ultrasound before getting an abortion, and that this is only “the first of several legislative measures this year that are expected to dramatically alter abortion law in the state.” Still on the way are bills “banning the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy, requiring that insurers that cover abortions also offer policies that do not, and giving rights to a fertilized egg at the moment of conception. Another bill, which will be debated in the House of Delegates on Thursday, would end state subsidies for poor women to abort fetuses that have serious birth defects.”
And the abortion bills aren’t the only ones. The legislature is on the verge of lifting the one handgun-per-month limit—this in the state that saw the worst act of gun violence in the past decade. It is pressing ahead with legislation to require government-issued IDs at the voting booth, prompting several hundred protesters to rally in Richmond, “denouncing the bills as racist attempts to return to the era of Jim Crow.” And, well, let’s leave it to the Post to sum up the rest of the list: bills to “wipe out corporate income taxes; mandate drug testing of welfare recipients; crack down on illegal immigrants [and] allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to place children with gay couples.”
Many conservative commentators place McDonnell at the top of Mitt Romney’s veep list—he would presumably assure getting Virginia back in the red column, and reassure social conservatives still anxious about the formerly pro-choice Mormon at the top of the ticket. Not to mention that, as I realized while watching him stump with Romney in South Carolina, McDonnell is so bland and square (with a hair part so wide and frozen that you could drive a truck down it) that he makes Romney look almost edgy by comparison.
But keep an eye on this legislation coming out of Richmond with McDonnell’s name on it. For a Republican presidential nominee making his summer pivot to the center, it might end up carrying just a little too much whiff of Ole Virginny.
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