Proof that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's future political ambitions could be in jeopardy following revelations he and his family accepted more than $100,000 worth of loans and gifts from a company CEO lies in a poll showing the Republican's popularity has plunged as details of the situation emerge.
The term-limited governor has support from 46 percent of Virginians versus 37 percent who disapprove, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday. A similar poll taken last November showed his approval rating at 53 percent approval versus just 26 percent disapproval.
Since then, news reports have revealed McDonnell faces state and federal investigations into a series of financial transactions with Jonnie Williams Sr., a campaign donor and CEO of Star Scientific. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch the questionable transactions include: $15,000 to pay for catering at McDonnell's daughter's wedding reception; $15,000 in clothing for McDonnell's wife; $6,500 for a Rolex watch the governor's wife gave to McDonnell; $70,000 in loans to a company co-owned by McDonnell and his sister; and $50,000 directly to McDonnell's wife. State investigators are looking into whether or not McDonnell properly disclosed the gifts, but they are legal to accept under Virginia law.
The poll showed nearly 80 percent of Virginia voters said they were aware of the gifts, but just 16 percent say he should resign.
"The bottom line seems to be that they view him as just another politician, but at this point they are not clamoring for his scalp," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in a memo accompanying the polling results.
McDonnell's slip comes largely from women voters, with 40 percent approving of his performance compared to 42 percent disapproving. That's a slip from a May poll, which showed 45 percent approving of him versus 30 percent disapproving.
"The lofty levels of 2-1 job approval that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell once enjoyed have slipped away with six months left in his term," Brown said. "He's under 50 percent for the second poll in a row, with just a 9 point net approval after substantial media coverage of his relationship with a campaign donor and associated problems."
McDonnell is finishing his one term as governor. Virginia law does not allow an incumbent governor to run for re-election. In the past McDonnell had frequently been mentioned as a potential 2012 vice presidential pick for Mitt Romney and is a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate.
Despite his recent troubles, McDonnell still has a higher approval rating than some of his Republican peers, most notably Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Maine Gov. Paul LePage, both of whose approval ratings are in the 30 percent range. And as a pair of Democratic city candidates in New York – the disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner and former Gov. Eliot Spitzer – have proven, voters love a comeback story.