Saturday, December 13, 2008

Will Bob McDonnell resign to run for governor?

I think that Bob McDonnell will resign from his position as Attorney General to run for the Virginia Governor's mansion. In fact, the title of this post could have been "When will Bob McDonnell resign?"

I cast no aspersions on McDonnell: it is an age-old tradition among Virginia's Attorney Generals that they resign in order to actively campaign. Actively campaigning and fundraising for the Governor's mansion has been seen as an inherent conflict of interest with the duties of the Attorney General, so when Bob McDonnell resigns he will be doing what is right and proper according to Virginia tradition.

One school of thought says that McDonnell should resign early in the year to avoid conflicts and get an early start on his fundraising. Another possibility is that McDonnell waits until June, until after the hotly contested Democratic primary is over. The presumption inherent in this second point of view is that any advantage the Democrat obtains by starting early will be offset by the Democrat's need to spend heavily on their primary.

To me then, the question before McDonnell and his advisers is whether there is any pressing matter or issue that will require McDonnell's attention before June. If there was some important issue pending before the Attorney General's office that required McDonnell, then it might make sense for him to delay his resignation in order to deal with that issue and reap whatever political dividends that might result. I do not know of any such pending issue, therefore I tend to believe that McDonnell will opt for an earlier departure in February or March, perhaps even earlier. I believe that as long as there is no critical business for him to deal with, McDonnell will resign early in order to maximize his ability to raise money for what will be a tough governor's race in the summer and autumn of 2009.

As an aside here, I'd like to take note of Brian Moran's decision to resign from his seat in the House of Delegates in order to pursue the Democratic gubernatorial nomination full time. I think it's a smart move that signals Moran's seriousness. It allows him to focus on fundraising for the primary without any conflict of interest--an important factor when Terry McAuliffe has all but promised to bring massive amounts of money to the primary race. Right now, I would give Moran the edge in the Democratic race based on recent polls and based on his willingness to focus his attention on the race.

Some Republican bloggers have chosen--foolishly, I think--to try and make something out of Moran's resignation. They will inevitably end up having to eat their words, because--as noted above--Bob McDonnell will almost certainly have to resign from his Attorney General's post to run full time for governor. I can only attribute these criticisms to a lack of understanding of how Virginia's electoral process really works and plain good old Republican ignorance. I wonder how far down this path these bloggers will go, only to have their words quoted back at them when Bob McDonnell resigns.

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