This morning on "Mornings on the Mall" on WMAL-FM in Washington DC, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) used the memory of Ronald Reagan to give himself cover for a tax increase he helped engineer.
Once considered a strong contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, McDonnell has found himself under increasing scrutiny from allies on the right for a tax-laden transportation bill that was approved by Virginia's legislature this weekend, despite opposition from many Republicans, including the presumptive GOP nominee to succeed McDonnell, tea-party favorite Ken Cuccinelli.
Beyond the details of the bill, which has been described by VA Tea Party leader Jamie Radtke as an unconstitutional tax increase, the optics of the entire process is hurting McDonnell's stature as a conservative alternative for 2016.
Just look at how the Washington Post led their coverage of the bill's passing:
Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) and the Democrat angling to succeed him, Terry McAuliffe, both supported the measure and worked to drum up votes for it. When the bill passed, McDonnell and McAuliffe even shared what the governor’s spokesman called “a brief congratulatory phone call” about it.
When you're linked with ultra-liberal Terry McAuliffe, a man conservatives love to loathe, you're having a perception problem, to say the least.
When challenged over the tax increase included in the bill, McDonnell pointed to the Reagan gasoline tax increase of 1983. That increase however, was a temporary bump set to end five years later, and within three years Reagan had engineered the single largest income tax reform law with the most significant cuts to tax rates in history.
Finally, McDonnell suggested that reports that he complied with Democrats' demands to expand Medicare in exchange for their support for the bill were untrue. The Washington Post report runs contrary to the Governor's claim:
And on Friday night, Cuccinelli issued a legal opinion saying that a proposal to allow a special committee of lawmakers to authorize an expansion of Medicaid in the state was unconstitutional. Democrats were demanding that the Medicaid provision be included in the final budget before they would vote for the transportation measure.
Listen to the full, contentious interview: