- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 5, 2012

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley traded some friendly — albeit pointed — jabs in a joint appearance Sunday, as Mr. McDonnell eases his way into the newfound role of campaign surrogate for Mitt Romney.

Mr. McDonnell, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the electoral map is now lining up for the former Massachusetts governor, who scored a decisive win in the Nevada caucuses Saturday, and that he’s showing an ability to win key demographics across the Republican spectrum.

The Virginia governor called President Obama’s tenure “a complete failure of leadership,” claiming shortcomings on issues such as jobs, the deficit and energy.

“Well, that’s very interesting,” replied Mr. O’Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. “In fact, I was going to ask Gov. McDonnell … if his state is now creating jobs again or is Virginia losing jobs as you were in the recession. And that’s a rhetorical question, governor. Your state is now creating jobs, my state is now creating jobs, throughout our country … we’re now creating jobs again.

“Now, we could create jobs faster, Gov. McDonnell, if your party were not captive of the right-wing tea party folks in Congress who want to keep anything from happening. But facts are stubborn things.”

Mr. McDonnell, though, hit back, prefacing his comments by calling Mr. O'Malley a “friend,” and noting that they get along and do work together on issues facing the D.C.-metro area.

“But I just flat disagree with him,” he said. “Eleven out of the top 15 states in America that were ranked by CNBC in top places to do business are Republican states. Seven out of the 10 states that have had the biggest drop in unemployment are run by Republican governors. And he and I disagree — his plan in Maryland is to increase taxes on income, on gas, on cigars, and everything else.”

The main thrust of Mr. McDonnell’s Sunday appearances, though — he also spoke on “Fox News Sunday” — was talking up Mr. Romney. He squared off against former Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts, a Newt Gingrich supporter, on that program and was asked about Mr. Romney’s recent comments in which he said he’s not concerned about the very poor, downplayed the six-figure speaking fees he’s received, and said that he likes being in a position where he can fire people.

“I know him well. He cares about people of all income strata, wants everybody to have access to the American dream,” he said. “That’s Mitt Romney.”

And it wouldn’t be an interview with Mr. McDonnell without broaching the subject of the vice presidency, a position the Virginia governor has said he’s open to accepting if it is offered but that he isn’t campaigning for.

Asked to make the case for what he would bring to a Republican ticket, Mr. McDonnell said he was not “waiting for that phone to ring.”

“But look, you know, people are saying it’s a swing state, we’ve balanced a budget without raising taxes, a billion in surplus, lowest unemployment rate in the Southeast. You know, we’re really pleased with the things we’ve been able to do in Virginia.”