1. Obama Comes to Virginia, Neglects to Call the Governor
President Obama visited a Fairfax school to draw attention to his education reform initiatives. The President neglected to call Virginia’s Governor and invite him to the event, despite the fact that McDonnell must have said over one hundred times how much he looks forward to working with Obama on his agenda to increase the number of charter schools and institute performance pay for teachers. It was bad presidential manners. But, as Tony Lee pointed out on this site, the President punted on what could have been a highly visible “bipartisan moment,” something that might have really helped him politically.
2. Three Strikes, You Must Be Out (of office)
That’s what people were saying about the bad week former Governor Tim Kaine had at the Capitol. Newly elected Governor Bob McDonnell opened the rest stops that his predecessor had closed. Kaine’s proposal to raise the income tax to cope with the state budget shortfall was defeated 97-0 in the House of Delegates. And McDonnell officially revoked Kaine’s 11th hour request to the Justice Department to release convicted murderer Jens Soering. The three quick strikes at Kaine’s proposals were an indication of how rapidly things can change when you’re out of office.
3. Will McDonnell Best Jindal?
It’s a great honor to be selected to give the your party’s official response to the President’s State of the Union address. But as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal found out last year, having to follow Barack Obama can be a reputation killer. Jindal had been touted as the GOP’s new rising star, but after an insipid performance in the role McDonnell will have on Wednesday, he was dispatched back to Louisiana with a Not Ready For Prime Time post-it attached to his forehead. I expect McDonnell to acquit himself far better. It’s a fabulous opportunity, yet the impression McDonnell makes will determine his standing with national Republicans for years.
4. Home Work
Besides spending some time in the national spotlight next week, the new Governor will be getting down to some serious business at home. McDonnell will be making his recommendations for closing the state’s $4 billion dollar shortfall and everyone’ll be scrutinizing the cuts he’ll be recommending in lieu of the income tax increase Tim Kaine proposed. McDonnell’s team was very smart to focus his first week on broadly popular matters such as reopening the rest stops and his predecessor’s request to transfer a murderer to Germany. But with the state’s budget picture not looking any better and the unemployment rate climbing to 6.9%, McDonnell’s decisions this week are unlikely to have everyone applauding.
5. Senator Webb: First Democrat to Announce that the World Has Changed
Scott Brown hadn’t even completed his acceptance speech on Tuesday evening when Jim Webb issued a statement saying that the U.S. Senate shouldn’t take up health care until Brown was officially seated. Webb’s timing was exquisite. His press release was carried on all the national media. It effectively ended any speculation that the Democrats would try to make an end run around the Massachusets election results to pass a health care reform bill. And it demonstrated that Webb plans to be an independent voice on all national policy issues for the next few years. My sense is that Webb’s statement on Tuesday evening was not only about fairness and electoral reform, but a far broader manifesto regarding his feelings about the Democratic leadership in Congress.
6. I Can’t Drive 65
If I remember correctly, it was Sammy Hagar’s anthem song after the feds lowered the speed limit during a previous energy crisis. It looks like many more Virginians might be putting the song on their playlists, this time to celebrate the bill passed by the Senate Transportation Committee to raise Virginia’s speed limit to 70 miles per hour on parts of all interstate highways that are not heavily trafficked.
7. The Virginia Model Goes National
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this week affirming the rights of corporations to spend unlimited amounts on free speech in the political arena will be one of the most controversial judgments of our time. I didn’t agree with the reasoning in the majority’s opinion, but I’ve always been struck by the apparent futility of efforts that try to carefully delimit and constrain the collection and application of money to elections. Inevitably, these efforts have resulted in large loopholes through which partisans drive truckloads of contributions. Their ingenuity continually outpaces the efforts to regulate them. Virginia’s model of Almost Anything Goes Coupled with Sophisticated Disclosure through VPAP is unlikely to please anyone who is deeply concerned about the potentially corrupting influence of money on elections, but its focus on achieving transparency may be more realistic than the ethical aspirations of campaign finance reformers.