Critics say McDonnell is polishing his image

See video plugging him, not the state

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is airing a television commercial he said is intended to highlight positive developments in Virginia but which critics say is an attempt to make over his image after a tough 2012 General Assembly session.

The 30-second spot, titled “Growing Strong,” features Virginia business executives touting the state’s low unemployment rate, its recent budget surpluses, and Mr. McDonnell’s “hold the line” approach on taxes.

“Jobs and opportunity are thriving again in Virginia,” Mr. McDonnell says at the end of the video, which is paid for by Opportunity Virginia, his political action committee. “Virginia’s growing strong, and so is our future.”

The cheery tone of the advertisement stands in stark contrast to the acrimony that marked the recently completed General Assembly session.

The state and Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, endured frequent mockery from comedians over a controversial law that will require women to undergo ultrasound imaging before they have an abortion. Legislators also were forced into a special session to pass a new two-year budget after Democrats twice blocked them during the regular, 60-day session.

Politicians touting their accomplishments is certainly nothing new, but Mr. McDonnell isn’t running for anything — Virginia governors cannot serve two consecutive terms. Democrats seized on the advertising campaign as evidence that Mr. McDonnell, who frequently has been mentioned as a potential GOP vice presidential candidate, is campaigning for the position — a charge Mr. McDonnell has denied.

“The only thing more embarrassing than Bob McDonnell’s ‘Pick me! Pick me!’ ad buy is his record as Governor,” Brian Coy, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia, said in a statement. “He could have saved himself and his donors a lot of money had he focused on the job he was hired to do instead of turning our Commonwealth into a national punch line with mandatory ultrasounds and his continued rolling back of women’s rights.”

E. Alex Stanley, political director for Opportunity Virginia, said she couldn’t comment on specifics about where or how frequently the commercial will air but described it as “significant and statewide.”

The release of the commercial came on a day Mr. McDonnell found himself answering uncomfortable questions about his stance on abortion.

The Washington Post, which first reported on the advertising campaign, recently documented what the paper described as a shift in Mr. McDonnell’s views on abortion. Mr. McDonnell, a pro-life Roman Catholic, has always been opposed to abortion except when the life of the mother is in danger, but the newspaper insinuated that Mr. McDonnell had recently “softened” his stance on the issue, now also opposing it except in cases of rape or incest.

Mr. McDonnell said Tuesday the report was flat wrong.

“My personal position as a pro-life Catholic will always be the same,” he said on WTOP Radio’s Ask the Governor program. “I’ve said this for 20 years. Translating that into public policy arena, I’ve got to follow the law.”

As an example, he pointed to the state’s applying provisions of the federal Hyde amendment, which bans Medicaid funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger.

“We said repeatedly exactly what my position is,” he said.

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