1. McDonnell Rises in the Veepstakes
A Washington Post poll this week showed Bob McDonnell with a 62% approval rating.
The internal numbers are even more interesting.
The poll indicated that McDonnell’s popularity extends far beyond Republicans in Virginia. His job approval rating with independents remains high and even Democrats, by a 50%-45% margin approve of his performance.
The poll certainly burnishes McDonnell’s credentials for the Veepstakes.
His ideological stances against funding for Planned Parenthood and Public Broadcasting will be popular with conservatives nationally.
Yet he’s also retained substantial appeal outside of the party.
And he is Governor of a state that the Republicans will probably need to win to recapture the White House.
Let’s recognize the political reality here.
McDonnell’s on the presumptive short list
All his actions for the next 15 months are going to be increasingly read by the national media in this light.
2. Neck and Neck
That’s what the polls are saying about George Allen and Tim Kaine right now.
But perhaps the best polling news for Kaine this week had nothing to do with his head-to-head matchup with Allen.
It came from a Public Policy Polling survey showing Barack Obama with at least an 8 point lead in Virginia over any potential Republican candidate.
If Obama actually carries Virginia by a comfortable margin,
It would be extraordinarily difficult for Allen (or any Republican) to defeat Kaine.
My sense is that poll overstates the President’s current strength in the Commonwealth.
The administration’s position on cap-and-trade and its proposal for JFCOM closure may have generated some region-wide antipathies that are not fully captured in the polling data.
And Kaine’s former job defending any and every administration and congressional Democratic policy can hardly be seen as a positive.
Still, the polling data do point to one prominent feature of the campaign at this moment.
Kaine knows who his partner at the top of the ticket will be.
Allen does not.
And while the former Senator will be relentless in pointing to administration policies that are presumedly not beneficial to Virginians, he knows that his own chances are partially dependent on his party nominating a candidate that:
a) Can be competitive in Virginia
b) Will spend far more more money than John McCain did in actually trying to win the state.
3. Would Allen Like McDonnell on the Ticket?
The question is purely rhetorical.
You might as well ask if Cuccinelli dislikes the feds.
4. Hamilton’s Conviction
As the trial progressed, most observers came to believe that it was going to be difficult for the former delegate to explain away the evidentiary trail that seemed to indicate that a quid pro quo took place with ODU.
Hamilton attempted to argue that that he had a long-standing and widely recognized passion for education and for creating teacher training centers and that his employment at ODU was a natural outgrowth of his dedication to improving K-12 education, not a corrupt misuse of his power as a legislator.
I have my own theory about why the jury didn’t see things this way.
While Hamilton could accurately describe his passion for education, his defense was not able to demonstrate that he was passionately engaged in the Center.
If the description that emerged in the trial was accurate, his actual involvement was minimal.
He apparently didn’t want the Senate Finance Committee to know that he was the Director and, according to accounts, he was rarely at the office and many at ODU did not even know what the Center did.
My sense is that if Hamilton had been passionately engaged in directing the Center by organizing major conferences, bringing leaders together from across Virginia to focus on teacher training and teacher recruitment, and proudly acting as the public face of the Center, jurors might have been far more sympathetic to the argument that the arrangement was problematic but not necessarily criminal.
The inability of both Hamilton and anyone at ODU to explain how the money was actually being spent to enhance k-12 education and benefit teachers left the jurors with no other explanation tham the one the prosecutors provided.
5. The Amazing Maggie Walker Kids
The high school students from this Richmond area Governor’s School won the national “We the People” competition last week, a contest in which students from across the nation are judged on their capacity to understand constitutional principles, to explain them in essays, and to defend their position under intense questioning by a panel of judges.
For the last dozen years, Maggie Walker has been not only the state champ in the Commonwealth, but finished in the top ten in the country.
It’s an almost unbelievable streak.
But if you have a chance to meet these youg men and women (and their remarkable teachers, especially Phil Sorrentino and Matt McGuire), you won’t be surprised.
A few months ago, before the Senate race took shape, I was asked to moderate a forum the Maggie Walker students hosted between George Allen and Tim Kaine.
It was one of the most thoughtful dialogues in which I’ve had the pleasure to participate.
I’ll be interested in seeing if the questions at any debate in the campaign are as incisive as the ones the students posed.
6. Top Ten in the Country, But Not Counted in Virginia
The list of honors and awards that the students have won at Maggie Walker is astonishing.
I do not believe that there is any doubt that it is one of the top ten high schools in the country.
Maggie Walker does not make the U.S. News and World Report list of best high schools.
It’s not because of U.S. News.
It’s not because of anything the students, faculty, and administrators at Maggie Walker do wrong.
But it has everything to do with our inability in Virginia to find a way to count the scores and accomplishments of the students at Maggie Walker and to send these to the appropriate raters.
Because Maggie Walker is a regional school supported by numerous local districts, the test scores of the students are never aggregated as a single school and sent to the U.S. News and World Report.
Instead, these scores are “allocated back” to the schools that the students would be attending if they were enrolled at a public school in their own locality.
I fully understand why the local systems insisted on this at the outset-
No locality wanted to have its test scores decline because of the “creaming” that goes on while it spends local taxpayer dollars sending students to the Governor’s School.
But the end result is counterproductive.
There has to be a way that we can report Maggie Walker’s scores without penalizing local school systems.
We have one of the best high schools in the country in Central Virginia.
But we apparently insist that we’re not going to tell anyone about it.
It makes no sense in terms of economic development.
And it’s not fair to the students, teachers and administrators who have built the culture of excellence that permeates the school.
Overall., we have a fabulous system of education in Central Virginia.
We should be shouting about it from the rooftops.
Not burying it in bureaucracy.