If you haven’t already put your “McDonnell 2016” swag on ebay, because you think there’s still a chance the Virginia governor can bounce back, forget it.
With a federal investigation well underway, downcast McDonnell allies say they see little hope that the governor’s reputation will recover, and some privately express doubt that he’ll be able to serve out his term. They describe a pervasive mood of shock and gloom throughout the governor’s extended political family.
The editorial board of the Washington Post, which is hardly reflexively liberal, slammed the governor awfully hard yesterday: “Mr. McDonnell’s head-spinning hypocrisy has stained his reputation and shredded the bonds of trust that any governor must maintain with the public if he wishes to be effective and credible. It’s time for him to stop dodging hard questions and hiding behind legal niceties; it’s time for Mr. McDonnell to level with Virginians about what has become the state’s most toxic scandal in years.”
The editorial board of the Charlottesville Daily Progress published this today: “McDonnell can’t get out of the way of his ethical lapses. His defenses hold water like a sieve.” The editorial added that a “nightmare” is now “being lived out in the state’s highest office.”
Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus added this morning that the governor is “obviously … unfit for office.”
For his part, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican who hopes to replace McDonnell, has his own connections to the controversy, and has begun to put just a little distance between himself and his scandal-plagued ally. “What we’ve all been seeing is very painful for Virginia, and it’s completely inconsistent with Virginia’s very reserved traditions,” Cuccinelli said in a statement released by his campaign.
It was a mild rebuke, to be sure, but it was a far cry from “I stand by the governor and look forward to campaigning with him.”