- The Washington Times - Monday, March 11, 2013

A conservative Virginia-based political action committee is taking out its frustrations with Bob McDonnell and the transportation plan he brokered by airing ads in Iowa and New Hampshire blasting the Republican governor, who is expected to make a 2016 presidential run.

Patriot Super PAC spent $7,800 on television and radio ads that will air Tuesday through Thursday on Fox News Channel and on conservative talk radio shows in New Hampshire, according to invoices obtained by The Washington Times.

The group already spent $4,400 this month on TV ads in Iowa that attacked Mr. McDonnell for spurring the Virginia General Assembly’s passage last month of a transportation funding bill that would raise $880 million a year largely by raising the state’s sales tax from 5 percent to 5.3 percent and adding additional regional sales taxes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

“As a candidate, McDonnell promised Virginians he would never raise taxes,” Patriot Super PAC says in the 30-second ad aired in Iowa. “But as governor, McDonnell pushed the largest tax increase in Virginia history.”

The advertisements by Patriot Super PAC are believed to be the first political ads of the 2016 presidential season, and they come from a group that supports tea party favorites such as Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican; Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican; and Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II.

Iowa and New Hampshire are the first states to hold presidential nominating contests and their voters are courted early and often by contenders. The Iowa ad criticizing Mr. McDonnell was narrated by Jamie Radtke, a Virginia tea party activist who ran for U.S. Senate last year but lost in the GOP primary.

Anti-tax conservatives have roundly criticized Mr. McDonnell and urged him to vote or amend the transportation bill, which was passed as a compromise between Democrats and moderate Republicans.

The governor has declined to say whether he will sign or amend the bill.

Representatives for Mr. McDonnell have thus far dismissed the attack ads from Patriot Super PAC, writing them off as a publicity stunt that will have little effect.

“A $5,000 TV buy isn’t an attempt to run the first real ad of 2016,” McDonnell spokesman J. Tucker Martin told the Virginian-Pilot last week. “It’s an attempt to get articles about running the first TV ad of 2016.”

It remains to be seen whether the ads prove effective, but Mr. McDonnell will probably have to answer for the transportation plan if he runs for president, as many analysts expect.

Republican primary opponents would likely blast him for approving a tax increase, while he could be expected to characterize the plan as bipartisan legislation that helped to address the state’s serious infrastructure problem.

Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington, said the governor is sure to receive criticism but that his foray into centrist politics could help him with on-the-fence voters.

“He’s always had religious conservatives, and this could help with moderates,” Mr. Farnsworth said. “It’s better to have a legacy than not, and passage of this bill gives the governor a significant thing he can point to.”

• David Hill can be reached at dhill@washingtontimes.com.

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