Home Chris Graham: Breaking down the McDonnell resignation rumor controversy

Chris Graham: Breaking down the McDonnell resignation rumor controversy

bob-mcdonnell-linksThe Republican blogosphere was buzzing on Monday about a rumor that Gov. Bob McDonnell will be stepping down in the near future as part of a plea deal in the ongoing investigation into gifts received by the governor’s family from a prominent campaign donor.

People close to the governor, including a prominent attorney, have vehemently fought back against the speculation, not surprisingly leading to equally strenuous blowback from the blogosphere.

Which leaves to question: Will the governor be resigning? It’s hard to imagine so, based on what we know now. The idea that he will face any kind of criminal charges for the unreported gifts is a bit of a stretch, again based on what we know now. Then, assuming that he could be exposed to criminal sanction, would it rise to the level where a prosecutor could feel that it’s possible to dangle out resignation as part of a quid pro quo to resolve whatever case that could be brought? Again, based on what we know now, it’s hard to imagine this being so.

Now let’s look at the politics of situation. Oh, yeah, there’s a statewide election this fall – less than four months from now, actually. Can anybody rightly expect the case to get fast-tracked to the point where a final resolution is necessary before November? Democrats interested in sweeping the fall elections certainly wouldn’t mind this being the case, but the risk is that they get some of the blood on their hands and in the process take away some of the sting of the possible impact on voters’ minds heading into the voting booth.

Conversely, Republicans may have some interest in seeing the issue taken off the table sooner rather than later. That may be why we’re seeing the rumors swirling in the Republican blogosphere and not the Democratic blogosphere. If I’m a Republican interested in the fall elections, I want whatever mess there is from the McDonnell gifts story done away with as soon as possible, and if it takes the lame-duck governor falling on his sword to accomplish that, so be it.

If McDonnell were to step down in the next few weeks, it would be terrible, terrible, short term for Republicans on the fall statewide ticket. But the damage would be done in the summer months, when few outside the politicos are paying any attention to politics, giving the Ken Cuccinelli gubernatorial campaign team, in particular, plenty of time to come up with a strategy for deflecting the sting of the story from having an impact on operations in the fall.

Democrats, on the other hand, may be better off if the McDonnell gift story stays unresolved into November. That being the case, Dems can speculate as wildly as they wish about what else may be forthcoming in the ongoing investigation, and tar and feather Republican candidates up and down the ticket in the process.

There are risks associated with any of the above strategic approaches. Maybe the GOP wouldn’t be able to deflect; maybe Democrats overplay their hand no matter what, as Creigh Deeds did with the controversial McDonnell thesis that the McDonnell team deftly sidestepped in 2009.

And maybe this is so much ado about nothing. It still remains to be seen if McDonnell did anything other than fail to fill out paperwork.

To make the leap from where we are now to a pending resignation seems to be stretching things a bit.



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