[UPDATE: I'm informed by someone very much in touch with the Virginia political scene that the root of the problem is the Bob McDonnell's staff are, at the best, pro-life squishes and they are presently negotiating with themselves over the best way of selling out.]
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, a Romney supporter and leading contender for the VP spot on a Romney-headed ticket, demonstrated his complete philosophical alignment with Romney yesterday by flipflopping on a bill he has championed and in the process hanging VA GOP delegates out to dry.
For those who haven't been paying attention, Virginia's legislature has been going after the abortion industry root and branch. Last year they passed a law requiring aborttoirs to be regulated as if they did what they do: perform a surgical procedure which can be life threatening. This year a bill is being finalized that requires a woman seeking an abortion to see ultrasound pictures of the baby. Somehow this bill, which does not require any medical procedure the woman was not going to receive in the first place, has the pro-abortion lobby in a tizzy. Dahlia Lithwick at Slate has predictably styled this as rape.
Up until yesterday, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell had unconditionally supported the bill.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell is backing off his unconditional support for a bill requiring women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, focusing new attention on one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in Virginia’s General Assembly this year.
Until this weekend, McDonnell (R) and his aides had said the governor would sign the measure if it made it to his desk. McDonnell, who strongly opposes abortion, will no longer make that commitment.
As the political damage has already been done to the GOP senators who have taken a courageous stand on this issue, one may rightfully ask why a governor who is barred from running for re-election wouldn't stand behind the very people he encouraged to take up the bill in the first place?
“Something is happening,’’ Jessica Honke, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said hopefully.
Yes, indeedy. Something is happening.
There is only one explanation that fits all the facts. McDonnell wants to be Mitt Romney's choice for vice president should Romney almost certainly win the GOP nomination. The ultrasound bill is causing too much controversy and probably has Romney's handlers wearing brown trousers at the thought of having to actually take a pro-life position in a general election campaign. McDonnell takes to opportunity to look moderate and abandons ship.
In fact, McDonnell's actions are really a great metaphor for Mitt Romney's political career.
So, again, we are on the verge of having a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory by someone who appears to be more concerned with what people who will never like him are saying rather than doing the right thing.
In a way, it is sort of fitting that this story breaks on Ash Wednesday. Maybe McDonnell should swear off political games for the next 40 days.