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Could Former Gov. McDonnell Make a Comeback?

Could Former Gov. McDonnell Make a Comeback?

By Friday, 01 July 2016 09:21 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Now that the Supreme Court cleared former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, speculation is rampant over his next move.

McDonnell, 61, was a popular conservative governor who was mentioned as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate in 2012 and as a future presidential hopeful until his indictment on accepting illegal gifts and loans in 2014.

No one I talked to would rule out a return to politics by McDonnell.

“It’s too early to tell,” former National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Davis told me shortly after news that McDonnell’s 2015 conviction was vacated.

“Of course, I’m very glad the conviction was overturned,” said Virginia’s Republican National Committeeman Morton Blackwell, a longtime national conservative activist. “It was in my judgment a political prosecution. Large numbers of people, and not just Republicans, were outraged in the first place.”

But, Blackwell added, “As to his future, I don’t know what his intentions are. He did not maintain a close relationship with the conservative grass-roots while he was governor. And most in that group worked very hard for his election in 2009.”

A Roman Catholic father of five, U.S. Army veteran, former state legislator, and attorney general, McDonnell seemed to have everything going for him when he became chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2012.

All of this turned into dust following McDonnell’s indictment after leaving the governorship (Virginia limits its chief executives to one consecutive term) and subsequent conviction and sentence to prison. In July, 2015, the last poll on McDonnell taken by PPP showed that among likely voters in Virginia, 28 percent viewed him favorably and 44 percent unfavorably.

Historically, Democrats have forgiven tainted politicians and often returned them to office after scandal, while Republicans are less forgiving. Last year, for example, former Bridgeport, Conn., Mayor Joseph Ganim returned to his old job after having left office in disgrace and served a prison sentence on corruption charges.

Similar comebacks were achieved by Boston Mayor James Michael Curley, who served as mayor while in prison in 1949, and former District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry, who recaptured City Hall in 1994 four years after he was caught sniffing cocaine on camera, and later served a brief prison sentence.

Among Republicans, however, it is hard to find similar comebacks. Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, whose career was seemingly ruined in 2010 after admitting to trips with a mistress, did win an open U.S. House seat three years later. Louisiana Sen. David Vitter confessed to visiting a house of prostitution and was re-elected but saw the scandal revisited when he ran for governor last year. Vitter lost badly.

“No one knows what Bob McDonnell will do next,” said Mark Rozell, dean of the School of Policy, Government and International Affairs at George Mason University in Virginia. “I felt his indictment and conviction were wrong, and he can claim vindication. As to what’s next, well, we can only remember that America is a land of second chances.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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Now that the Supreme Court cleared former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, speculation is rampant over his next move.
McDonnell, supreme court, virginia
Friday, 01 July 2016 09:21 AM
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