Fairfax County, Virginia went for President Barack Obama in 2008, and it was the last place he campaigned. It also went for the GOP a year later in Virginia, as Republicans Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli won their races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively.
On Wednesday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney went to this county, which has a seventh of the voters in Virginia, a state that may decide the 2012 election.
Like McDonnell, who appeared at the event with Bolling, Romney has the image of a capable manager who voters may trust to be a “turnaround artist” capable of fixing America’s economy, much in the way McDonnell has presided over Virginia’s economic turnaround during a time when many other states have faced massive deficits amidst a period of financial stagnation.
Romney, however, must overcome the perception that he is a politician devoid of a core.
Yesterday, Romney came under fire when he was non-committal regarding a ballot initiative in Ohio, which seeks to overturn the curbs on public employees’ collective bargaining — an effort spearheaded by Gov. John Kasich. Romney told CNN yesterday that he merely supported “the effort of the governor to rein in the scale of government.” Matters were complicated because Romney made those comments at a phone banking event of his own volunteers in Ohio.
After apologizing for creating confusion, Romney said he now supported Kasich “110 percent.”
“I fully support Gov. Kasich’s … I think it’s called ‘Question 2’ in Ohio,” said Romney. “Fully support that.”
Romney also implied that some of the confusion was caused yesterday because he did not want to weigh in on another provision on Ohio’s ballot dealing with health care and mandates, which many think is an even greater liability for Romney than what Perry implied was “shape shifting” rhetoric.
Romney’s best bet in the primary and the general election, though, will be to focus on the country’s sour economy, his past record of turning companies around and his leadership in the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Before Romney spoke at the event in Fairfax, Bolling referenced Virginia’s well managed economy.
“You want to see how government doesn’t work, you look north of the Potomac River,” Bolling said. “You want to see how government works, you look to the South of the Potomac River.”
If Romney can convince voters that he can make America’s economy more like Virginia’s than Washington D.C.’s, voters may be willing to look past his foibles and liabilities.
As for a potential endorsement from McDonnell, Romney quipped that he asks every governor for an endorsement.
“There are no endorsements today,” said Romney. “But those are always appreciated.”
Previewing a potential match-up with Obama, Romney pointed to what would be a central campaign theme: That he can manage the country’s economy better than Obama.
“While he’s a nice guy, he’s over his head,” said Romney, in reference to Obama. “He doesn’t have a plan [that] gets America back to work.”