That headline may reflect an overly cynical rendering of events, but it's tough to analyze the following actions without peering through the Veep prism. First we have a new television ad released by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's PAC, touting the economic turnaround his policies have enabled during his two-and-a-half years in Richmond. Watch it, then consider my question below:
Okay, so what? He's done an excellent job in office, and Virginians are better off for it -- hence his strong approval ratings. Plus, politicians and supporters often promote notable achievements. Nothing to see here, right? You'd think so, except for the fact that McDonnell is term-limited after 2013, so he isn't gunning for re-election. His approval rating could be at 20 percent, and he'd have exactly the same shot at a second consecutive term as he does today. So what's this about? Part of it is simply good politics. He's turned a big deficit into a surplus without raising taxes, employment is vastly improved, and businsses are flocking to the state. Those are accomplishments he wants to drive home in voters' minds, especially as Democrats try to tie him to the recent ultrasound bill controversy -- throughout which the Left lied repeatedly, then refused to give him credit for brokering a reasonable compromise. When your opponents are trying to tarnish your pristine brand with hysterical cries of "government rape" and such nonsense, pushing back with your own strong narrative is politics 101. Another element of this is that although McDonnell may not be able to run for a second term in 2013, his political existence in Virginia is far from over. Again, brand and legacy protection. But this ad is airing in the DC market, where much of the chattering and political class resides. Could the McDonnell forces be reminding, say, Team Romney that their man is an accomplished chief executive from a swing state? It's difficult not to reach that conclusion, especially when McDonnell is ramping up his role as an anti-Obama surrogate. Vice Presidential running mates often have to serve as attack dogs. With email blasts like this, McDonnell could be trying to attract some attention by flexing a little muscle.
Then we have Florida Senator Marco Rubio, last seen stumping alongside Romney hundreds of miles away from his home state. Rubio delivered what his staff billed as a "major foreign policy address" at Brookings yesterday, laying out his vision on US foreign policy. Was this a freshman Senator on the Foreign Relations and Select Intelligence committees establishing himself as a big thinker within the party, or was it a possible Veep pick burnishing his foreign policy chops to head off criticism that he's too inexperienced to be on a national ticket? In either case, Rubio ran into some logistical troubles during the speech, but recovered rather well. Text here, video below. Ready for primetime?
Incidentally, the guy at the top of the ticket is tied with Obama nationally and very competitive in major swing states. Last week, he was ahead by 5 according to Gallup. This week, he was down by 7 in the same tracking poll. I repeat: Polling is meaningless in April.