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Warren Fiske
By Warren Fiske August 26, 2011

McDonnell no longer promising to finish gubernatorial term

Two weeks out from Election Day 2009, Republican Bob McDonnell had a big lead in the race for governor and was fielding questions about whether he would complete his anticipated term leading Virginia or turn his ambition towards Washington.

"Will you make a commitment right now that were you to win on November 3rd,  that you will stay for your entire four-year term and not run for President in 2012?" asked Ryan Nobles of NBC12 in Richmond.

"Absolutely, I think those are all pipe dreams down the road," McDonnell replied.

"You’ll be there from the start right until the end?" Nobles pressed.

"Absolutely, we need a full time governor," McDonnell said.

Virginia gubernatorial races get a lot of national attention. The Old Dominion and New Jersey are the only states that choose governors the year after presidential elections. There isn’t much else to feed political junkies during these odd years.

But the 2009 Virginia gubernatorial race particularly piqued national interest. It came a year after Barack Obama carried Virginia, marking the first time in 44 years a Democratic presidential candidate won the state. Suddenly, reliably-Republican Virginia was recast as a critical swing state presidential politics. McDonnell’s popularity in Virginia created a buzz about his potential for the GOP national ticket in 2012.

McDonnell, still seeking to nail down his gubernatorial win, dismissed the speculation.
"The candidate doesn’t want to talk about future ambitions, saying he will serve his full four-year term through 2013 if elected," The Virginian-Pilot reported on Oct. 17, 2009.

Two days later, during his interview with Nobles, McDonnell said, "You know, there’s a lot of  number of national political pundits that are paying an exceptional amount of attention to Virginia. I am running to be governor of Virginia...I am fully committed to four years as Virginia’s governor."

A month after his inauguration, McDonnell reaffirmed the pledge. Dispelling rumors that he might run for the U.S. Senate in 2012, McDonnell told WTOP Radio on Feb. 23, 2010: "I am absolutely planning to serve for four years."

McDonnell’s response changed earlier this year when asked, for the first time, whether he would be interested in joining the GOP ticket in 2012 as the vice-presidential candidate.

"What if the party’s nominee.. came to you and said  ‘for the betterment of your party and your country, I need you to serve as my running mate." Nobles asked during a  February 21 interview this year.  "Wouldn’t that be a difficult thing for you to turn down?"

"Probably," McDonnell replied.

McDonnell then stressed that he was honored to be governor and was not seeking to join the national ticket.

McDonnell expressed outright interest in the No. 2 spot in a Politico story that ran Aug. 15, noting the his popularity in Virginia and his recent ascension to the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association.

"I’d be very interested," McDonnell was quoted as saying. "It is a swing state. I’m not asking for the call. I’m not looking for the call. As I’ve said many times, I’ve got the best job in America. But I think anybody who is in public life, if a presidential nominee called him and said, ‘I need your help to win,’ it would be a tremendous honor. … We’ll see. It’s going to be seven, eight, nine months before any of these decisions are made."
The next day, McDonnell was accused of reneging on his promise to serve out his term by David Mills, executive director of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

"Virginians deserve an answer: Is McDonnell just a flip-flopper who won’t stand by his word if it interferes with his personal political ambitions? Or did he knowingly mislead Virginia voters?" Mills said in a news release.

Tucker Martin, McDonnell’s chief of communications, told us: "The governor’s position has been absolutely consistent on this issue. He is fully committed to serving the people of Virginia. He is planning to serve the full four years of his term."

Martin said the vice-presidential talk "is a hypothetical conversation about a possible phone call that couldn’t even happen until a year from now. You can’t change your position on something that hasn’t happened."

But McDonnell is no longer promising to finish his gubernatorial term. He has put out word he is interested in being nominated for vice president next year. That’s a Full Flop!

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Decision Virginia, McDonnell pledges to serve entire term, Oct. 19, 2009.

The Virginian-Pilot, To McDonnell, solutions need input from all, Oct. 17, 2009.

The Washington Post, McDonnell calls Marshall’s comments on abortion "offensive," Feb. 23, 2010.

Decision Virginia, McDonnell opens the door to VP run, Feb. 21, 2011.

Politico, McDonnell takes to national stage, Aug. 15, 2011.

Democratic Party of Virginia, news release, Aug. 16, 2011.

Email interview with Tucker Martin, director of communications for Gov. Bob McDonnell, Aug. 25, 2011.

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McDonnell no longer promising to finish gubernatorial term

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