Democrats are now pouncing hard in the Virginia gubernatorial race against Republican nominee Bob McDonnell, who was revealed by the Washington Post to have laid out a meticulous religious-right political agenda in his thesis 20 years ago at Regent University.
In McDonnell’s thesis at Regent — the school founded by Pat Robertson — the then-34-year old grad student laid out how his fundamental concern was the decline of the traditional family unit, and how government policies must be designed to counteract the nefarious influences that have contributed to it. As examples, McDonnell cited women joining the workforce, abortion and contraception (he even pined for the old days when non-marital sex was by itself a crime), and what he called a socialist effort to have the state replace the family unit.
On a conference call with reporters just now, the campaign of Democratic nominee Creigh Deeds laid into McDonnell.On the call, Deeds senior adviser Mo Elleithee dismissed the push-back by McDonnell, who said that “Like everybody, my views on many issues have changed as I have gotten older,” and that the paper was “simply an academic exercise and clearly does not reflect my views.”
But Elleithee would have none of it. “This paper, which was written when McDonnell was 34 years old and months before he began his first campaign for office, this paper served as a blueprint for governing,” said Elleithee. “This paper drew out very explicitly his vision of a role for government…and it went beyond a personal philosophy, it had a 15-point action plan for how to implement that philosophy. And as the news accounts have said over the last 24 hours, he spent his public life working to implement those 15 points on that action plan.”
Elleithee also pointed out that 54% of Virginians are women — and that a “full assault on the role of women in the workplace” would not go over well with voters.
“I think a lot of people out there are surprised when they see what Bob McDonnell’s record is and what his philosophy is on governing, because it’s very different from his image and how he’s portrayed,” Elleithee said. “Let me be clear, Bob McDonnell says in this thesis that he knows that mainstream America isn’t ready to elect someone with this agenda.”
This last line would appear to refer to a portion where McDonnell called for Republicans to actively advocate for a values-based agenda outside of election cycles, because the electorate would not be receptive to simply hearing it at election time.
I asked Elleithee whether playing this up might have an unintended negative effect — that it could spur religious-right voters to rally around their guy, as he’s put under assault for his views. “Let me be clear, we’re not talking about his religious beliefs, we’re not talking about his personal beliefs,” said Elleithee. “In fact, I think most of us would argue that Bob McDonnell’s faith and devotion to it are one of the things we admire most about him. What this is about is a specific blueprint for governing, and a social agenda … and I think most Virginians would agree, that agenda is outside of the mainstream.