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The Pulse | McDonnell the centrist?

Column by Chris Graham

That’s the idea that I’ve had – focused as I’ve been on the stunning 2-1 margin that Bob McDonnell ran up among independent voters in last week’s gubernatorial-election win over Democrat Creigh Deeds.

But another data point to consider is the impact of so-called values voters – usually right-leaning evangelical Christians – on the election. According to exit polls, around a third of all voters in last week’s elections were values voters, and they split 83-17 for McDonnell.

Doing some quick math, you’re talking about 45 percent of McDonnell’s vote base coming from the religious right.

The question – which McDonnell takes the oath of office? The one who sold independent voters on his focus on jobs and the economy? Or the one who is an authentic member of the religious right?

We’ll be examining that more in-depth on Monday with a story including interviews with Dean Welty of the Valley Family Forum and political analysts Bob Holsworth of the blog Virginia Tomorrow and Isaac Wood from the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Here’s a taste of what the analysts have to say:

– “When you look at the McDonnell campaign, they didn’t want to step back from conservative positions, but at the same time, they were unwilling to emphasize them. They tried to run on economic issues,” Wood said.
“I think that’s really the question. Will the approach that Bob McDonnell adhered to in the campaign translate to the way that he governs?” Wood said.

– “The conservatives who supported McDonnell are going to say his priorities were essentially conservative – no taxes, complained about federal spending, complained about federal overreaching, opposed initiatives that would make it easier for unions to organize. He just emphasized economic issues over social issues. The agenda, I think they’re going to argue, was essentially a conservative agenda,” Holsworth said.

“There are some folks who are going to argue that McDonnell won by moving to the center,” Holsworth said. “I think he’s going to argue, and I think some conservatives are going to argue, that he won by the issues that he prioritized, not by any kind of direct or real move to the center. And if you look at the economic issues that he prioritized, he essentially handled them in a conservative way.”


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