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GOP gives McDonnell national stage
Virginia gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell enjoyed a high-profile moment in the public spotlight Saturday when he delivered the Republicans’ weekly radio address, stepping onto a national stage that his Democratic opponent has been slow to embrace.
Mr. McDonnell hasn’t been shy about addressing national issues. He’s openly discussed how the national Republican Party should reinvent itself, and he’s tried to engage his Democratic opponent, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, on issues such as cap-and-trade global-warming legislation and card-check union organizing.
His 600-word address Saturday morning touched on government accountability, education and job creation. He said he supports reforming health care in a manner that provides free-market incentives and makes insurance affordable and accessible, “not through nationalizing the system with a costly government-run plan.”
“Together, we will use innovation and free markets to bring new jobs and more opportunities to Virginians and America,” Mr. McDonnell said.
Being chosen to deliver the Republicans’ radio address, a counterpoint to President Obama’s, marks an elevation in stature for the former state attorney general.
But a contrast with Mr. Obama also could benefit Mr. McDonnell in Virginia, where the president’s favorability rating has been slipping and gubernatorial contests have historically been a backlash against new administrations.
In each Virginia gubernatorial election since 1973, the winner has represented the party opposing the president chosen in the prior year’s federal election.
But during his campaign, Mr. McDonnell has not just attempted to capitalize on his differences with the Obama administration. He told The Washington Times in June that he wants to help reinvent the Republican Party on a national level.
“I’m trying during this campaign to help to rebrand our party as the party of positive, happy, friendly, conservative leadership that’s pro-growth, pro-free enterprise, pro-economic development. And that’s really what we stand for,” Mr. McDonnell said.
The candidate criticized both state Republican leaders, who he said have allowed themselves to be characterized by Democrats as obstructionists, and national party leaders, who he said have done a poor job in recent years articulating the party’s core values.
“The Republican brand at the federal level has been tarnished six out of the last eight years, or the eight years where the Bush administration had a Republican majority and yet the national debt about doubled. We did not make progress on Social Security and immigration. We had congressmen doing some bad things that landed them in prison. That is not a great brand to create for the Republican Party,” Mr. McDonnell said.
He suggested the Republican Party focus on education as a signature issue, and in his address Saturday he talked about the need to expand access to education and complimented the president’s call for education reform.
In their first gubernatorial debate last month, Mr. McDonnell recounted a visit to the largest employer in Mr. Deeds’ state Senate district. The employer doesn’t support the cap-and-trade approach that would curb greenhouse gases by capping emissions and issuing permits for allowable carbon dioxide.
Mr. McDonnell agreed, calling cap-and-trade a “job killer.”
“If you won’t take a stand for 1,500 jobs in your district, I don’t think the people of Virginia can be confident you can protect jobs statewide,” Mr. McDonnell said to Mr. Deeds during the debate.
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