As Paul Waldman noted earlier this morning, Mitt Romney will be in a tight spot once he's finally clinched the nomination and has to pick a vice-presidential candidate for his ticket, a decision that gets trickier by the day thanks to the elongated primary season. On one side he'll be pressured to appease all of Rick Santorum's supporters, either by granting the second slot on the ticket to the runner-up or another social conservative of his ilk. On the other hand, Romney will have just finished a nomination that has pushed him further and further to the right, so he'll need someone who won't alienate the broader general-election voter base.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's name is often near the top when people list possible VPs. He's popular among the conservative grassroots, but falls under the category of typical bland white guys that voters are accustomed to and will receive little notice. It doesn't hurt either that he is the sitting governor for an important swing state. Yet McDonnell would be a disastrous pick, perhaps not quite on the level of Sarah Palin, but one that would allow the Obama campaign to run wild with negative advertising. Check out this new video from Virginia Democrats as one basic, low-budget example of what would surely follow if he were the VP-nominee:
For those who don't like to watch videos, the ad attacks McDonnell for supporting an anti-choice bill that would have forced any woman seeking an abortion to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound, an appallingly invasive procedure. McDonnell eventually backtracked that support but still signed a bill that will force women to have a regular ultrasound before they can receive an abortion.
Women's health is likely going to be a major issue in the general election. Democrats have gleefully watched as Republicans in Congress and those running for president positioned themselves against contraception. A Pew poll earlier this week has women breaking for Obama over Romney by 20 percent. And while McDonnell's anti-choice positions aren't too far out of step from the Republican line, his past is replete with ammo for opposition researchers. Most notable is his master's thesis, written in 1989 while he was a student at the evangelical Regent University. The paper is a manifesto lambasting feminism and harkening back to the glorified 1950s ideal of the family. He termed a Supreme Court decision legalizing contraception "illogical" and attacked having women in the workplace.
I've always been skeptical of McDonnell's future outside Virginia state government because of this past, but it's impossible to imagine him surviving a campaign where women's rights are going to be a central topic anyway.