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Mr. McDonnell defended his GOP governors, saying that Ohio, Michigan and Florida had their bond ratings increased recently because they took the lead on cutting spending.

Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat, can relate to the spots in which Mr. McDonnell and Mr. O'Malley find themselves.

Mr. Kaine served as Democratic National Committee chairman during his final year as governor, and stepped down earlier this year to run for the seat of retiring Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat.

Republicans have tried to derail Mr. Kaine’s campaign by consistently linking him to President Obama, whose approval ratings have sagged with the stagnant economy.

“I got grief from legislators — citizens didn’t give me any grief, because I think they understood that what you do is you go out and you proudly advocate for your party,” Mr. Kaine told The Washington Times. “I think the important balance to strike is to advocate for principles without being personally negative, and I always tried to do that when I was DNC chair.”

Mr. Kaine also said he and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor most always disagree on policy issues, but he’s glad a Virginian is in such a leadership position.

“My feeling is, I’d rather have Virginians in all of those spots than not,” he said. “It’s not only good for Virginia to have these folks in leadership positions, it also means that at the national level, people look at Virginia as an important state.”