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Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) on Sunday sought to thread the needle between touting Virginia's improving economic outlook and blaming President Obama for the nation's woes -- and ended up going somewhat off script.
Appearing on CNN's State of the Union, he initially resisted, but host Candy Crowley cornered the Mitt Romney surrogate into giving Obama a little bit of credit for Virginia's lower-than-average unemployment rate.
"Did [the stimulus] help us in the short-run with health care and education and spending to balance the budget? Sure," McDonnell said. "Does it help us in the long-term to really cut the unemployment rate. I'd say no."
Crowley followed up: "So just a tiny bit of credit to the president?"
"Well sure," the governor responded. "I think there are national policies that have had some impact."
McDonnell's argument -- that Obama helped a little but not enough -- contradicts Romney's core 2012 message, which is that Obama has made the economy worse. It reflects the pitfalls of the overarching Republican message that the economy is lousy while many GOP governors elected in 2010 tout improvements in their states.
But McDonnell also did his best to attack Obama -- specifically his energy policies and "over-burdensome" regulations -- and make the case for his candidate.
"Think how much better we'd do if we had President Romney," he said. "There's something going on with Republican-governed states. Seven out of the 10 states nationwide, Candy, that have the lowest unemployment rates: Republican governor states."