Republican Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that Mitt Romney will carry Virginia and win the presidency by a “razor-thin” margin.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the show with Virginia Republican Governor Bob McDonnell. Governor McDonnell joins us from Richmond. Thank you for being with us, governor.
And let’s start with the jobs report out: 171,000 jobs added, two-and-a-half years of private-sector job growth, following on consumer confidence up, housing getting back. Like Virginia, the national economy seems to be on the way back.
GOVERNOR BOB MCDONNELL: Well, any news in the right direction is good news, Al, but the bottom line is, the unemployment rate is higher today than when President Obama took office. So this is not a real recovery. We’re - you know, we’re doing relatively well in Virginia, down at 5.9 percent, because of some things that Republicans and Democrats have done.
But the point is, there were so many people out of the labor force, they’re just starting to come back in, we still have 23 million people unemployed, so we’re basically at a standstill over the last four years. I’m glad that we’re making some slight progress, but this is not what a real recovery looks like. We need 250,000 to 300,000 jobs a month in order to have a sustained recovery for our people. We can do - we can do better. And that’s why I’m supporting Mitt Romney.
HUNT: Governor, let me ask you about Sandy. You avoided the disaster that hit New York and New Jersey. It still, though, did hit Virginia. What kind of a job did FEMA and Barack Obama do?
MCDONNELL: Well, we were very blessed in Virginia. We got a glancing blow, although we had sustained winds of 50 miles an hour gusts, higher than that, a lot of rain and flooding on the Eastern Shore, Virginia Beach, Northern Virginia significantly without power.
So I’d say this. FEMA did - FEMA did a very good job. They were on the ground from Saturday on. We’ve got very good working relationships with them, between the state, local and federal governments. But I think what’s important for people to know is it’s really the local governments that do the lion’s share of the work, their first responders, their evacuation plans, the state with the police and National Guard are sort of in backup, and then finally, for financial assistance and other things comes FEMA.
The president was on the phone with us, pledging federal assistance. We appreciated that very much.
HUNT: Do you agree with Mitt Romney’s suggestion last year that maybe it’d be a good idea to turn FEMA’s functions back over to the states and local government or even privatize them?
MCDONNELL: I think the federal government’s got a legitimate role with the - with FEMA and being the backup for state and local governments for these major disasters and being on the ground in advance to help. They are the - sort of the level of government at last - of last resort for these major disasters like you see in New York and New Jersey.
And so, no, I think they’ve got - they’ve got a legitimate role. And I think recently Governor Romney has said the same thing.
HUNT: Let me ask you about a couple of endorsements. One of Virginia’s, you know, most famous citizens, Colin Powell, endorsed Barack Obama, saying he - he has concerns about Mitt Romney’s foreign policy views. The top Romney surrogate, John Sununu, said, no, he did it because of race. Let me ask you if you agree with Sununu, and does the Powell endorsement matter?
MCDONNELL: General Powell is - is a great American. He did a terrific job in the military and as secretary of state. And he’s free to make his choice. Obviously, I disagree with that. General Powell is free to make his endorsement. He’s done that. I’ve made mine. And ultimately the people will decide on Tuesday.
HUNT: Do you think race was a factor in his endorsement?
MCDONNELL: I mean, that’s up to General Powell. I doubt it. I mean, I’d say that General Powell is a man of great integrity. I know him a little bit. He makes the decisions that he makes based on what he really - really believes, and as do I, and as do most of - most Virginians.
HUNT: As does Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, and the owner of Bloomberg LP. He endorsed Obama, too, saying that the storm really brought home the need for an activist federal government in some areas. Will the - will the Bloomberg endorsement have any effect?
MCDONNELL: Not in Virginia. I mean, Mayor Bloomberg is a Democrat. It’s only - so the only surprise is that he waited until a couple days after a hurricane, right before an election, to make the endorsement.
HUNT: He actually ran as a Republican.
MCDONNELL: It’s not going to have any impact in Virginia.
HUNT: He actually ran as a Republican and independent.
MCDONNELL: Well, he did before. But, I mean, he’s - he’s a Democrat. And everybody knows that. And he’s been a champion for - for, you know, big city bailouts and gun control for a long time. So he is.
But, listen, Mayor Bloomberg does a good job when it comes to disaster preparedness in his - in his city. He’s been a - he’s been a good leader. But those endorsements aren’t going to carry much weight, I don’t think.
HUNT: Let’s go to Virginia, because it’s really - it couldn’t be tighter there. Prince William County, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are going to be there Saturday night, it went for Bush, it went for Obama. Republicans across the country are getting clobbered in the Latino vote. That’s a fast growing element in Prince William County. Could that cost you the county?
MCDONNELL: No. I was fortunate in 2009, the year after the president won Virginia, I got over 60 percent of the vote there and in Loudon County. We won Fairfax County. So I don’t see that - I don’t see that to be a problem. Prince William has got a lot of conservatives, has got a lot of people in the defense industry that are very concerned about the Obama sequestration defense cuts, 200,000 jobs lost in Virginia. And so many of the Hispanic community are very concerned about small business.
That’s why they’ve come - many people have come to America, and the unprecedented amount of uncertainty out of Washington with their regulations and taxes are really hurting people in the - in the community. I expect Mitt Romney to win Prince William County.
HUNT: OK, Governor, do you have any concern with Virgil Goode? It’s very close in Virginia. And he has run in the south side and won big as a Republican, as an independent, as a Democrat. Could he be a spoiler in your state?
MCDONNELL: Listen, Virgil’s a very good guy. Know him - known him for a long time. He’s a very principled conservative guy. I’m disappointed, obviously, that he’s running. You know, I think some polls had him at 2 percent. I expect him to be far less than that. I don’t expect him to be a factor. I think the ground game, as the Republicans have put together this year, while it was somewhat anemic in ’08, is great this year, probably better than the Democrats. And I think turnout and enthusiasm means that we win by a couple of points and, therefore, Congressman Goode’s not going to be a factor.
HUNT: All right. It is D-Day. You’ve predicted that Romney carries Virginia. You know the national scope. What’s the popular vote going to be? What percentage? And what will the Electoral College look like next Wednesday morning?
MCDONNELL: Well, I wish I was as good a pundit as you on that score, but I’m not, so I can only say, I think for the good of the country, I hope the same person, Mitt Romney, wins the popular vote and the Electoral College. I think it’s razor-thin. There are states still like Virginia and Ohio and Wisconsin and Minnesota and Nevada, Colorado, that are just - that are just too close to call.
But I think that the momentum - and I think this issue about ground game and the fact that the most enthusiastic voters are voting for Mitt Romney, which means that, of those likely voters in the polls, the ones that are actually going to show up, more of them will be Romney than Obama supporters, and the independents, the undecideds will break for Romney. That typically happens against the incumbent every election.
So I’m expecting Mitt Romney to win in a close vote in the Electoral College, because the bottom line is, the president’s tried hard for four years. His policies haven’t worked. I expect Romney in a close election.
HUNT: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, thank you so much for being with us. And when we come back, we’ll talk to Democratic Governor Deval Patrick.