Richmond, Va. — Elsewhere, in swing states such as Wisconsin and Ohio, Republican governors are under siege. Union heavies have swarmed capitol rotundas, schoolteachers are marching in the streets, and businesses are struggling. And as the recession continues, poll numbers are plummeting for GOP executives. But here in Virginia, a purple state carried by Pres. Barack Obama in 2008, Gov. Bob McDonnell, a first-term Republican, is a cross-aisle favorite with a 67 percent approval rating. What gives?
Chalk it up to pragmatism, McDonnell tells me as we chat in his third-floor office, a few steps from the governor’s mansion. “It’s the same situation that President Obama has got — a Democratic senate, a Republican house,” he says. “But we try to do things different.” Indeed, since his landslide, 17-point victory in 2009, the 57-year-old former attorney general has established an impressive record: closing a $4.2 billion budget shortfall and dialing back state spending. Unemployment hovers near 6 percent, well below the national average, and CNBC recently celebrated Virginia as a business haven.
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