Regardless of the legal outcome, the issues surrounding a former chef from the governor’s mansion and gifts from the CEO of a company called Star Scientific may take a political toll on the state’s top Republicans.
Lloyd Snook is a member of the Democratic party’s state central committee, the fifth district committee and former chairman of Charlottesville’s Democrats. He’s also a lawyer and a veteran political observer who’s not sure whether an FBI probe and a trial involving the governor’s former chef could take a political toll on the state’s top Republicans. It all depends, he says, on whether the public can figure out a fairly complicated story.
“Basically, what it boils down to is this. At a time when Star Scientific was suing the state to get back about a million dollars in taxes and interest, the president of Star Scientific was giving to the attorney general and to the family of the governor a lot of expensive gifts that weren’t getting properly reported.”
If that’s the message voters get from the media, Snook says, it could hurt Ken Cuccinelli’s bid to become governor, but it might be moot for Governor McDonnell should he try to run for president. Snook says his odds were already poor, because Virginia governors lack the track record to win the nation’s top job.
“Four years isn’t long enough to make a national impact. It’s not long enough to frankly build much of a record of your own. The record which McDonnell would have right now is largely on social issues, which that’s not playing real well around the country right now.”
We asked several Republican politicians and strategists to talk about the situation, but they did not return our calls. Still two recent polls by the Washington Post suggest there has been no damage yet. Fifty-nine percent of registered voters think Bob McDonnell has high personal, moral and ethical standards, and Ken Cuccinelli leads his Democratic opponent for governor by ten percentage points among likely voters.