McDonnell’s Rebuttal Praised, Panned

Despite a new format, the content of and reactions to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Republican response were pretty standard.

McDonnell delivered the address from the floor of the House of Delegates chamber, surrounded by supporters — including an ethnically diverse backdrop of smiling friends.

As expected, Republicans loved the speech. Democrats didn’t.

Here are a few takeaways:

*More than anything else, I noticed the extent to which McDonnell repeated whole sentences from his Inaugural address and his speech to a joint session of the General Assembly last week:

All Americans agree, that a young person needs a world-class education to compete in the global economy. As a kid my dad told me, “Son, to get a good job, you need a good education.” That’s even more true today.

and

A child’s educational opportunity should be determined by her intellect and work ethic, not by her zip code.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it was certainly noticeable.

*McDonnell looked comfortable in the House chamber. After all, he did serve there for 14 years. The live audience seemed to help, and it certainly prevented another Bobby Jindal moment. Or another Tim Kaine moment, for that matter.

*A lot of the national commentators immediately noticed the incredibly diverse audience behind McDonnell on the dais. Brian Williams noted that they were probably told to “focus on a spot on the back of his head and smile.”  A number of people who wrote to me on Twitter said the hyper-diversity made the atmosphere feel contrived.

The diversity was noticeable, though I’m not sure how much you can fault a politician for that. One note — the folks up there were McDonnell allies, including Cabinet secretaries. So it’s not as if he went out to downtown Richmond to hand-pick a diverse crowd of people for his backdrop.  (I’ve covered political rallies where staffers literally went through the masses, pulling minorities up to the stage to stand behind the candidate.)

*McDonnell’s performance will once again ratchet up talk of his political future. He’s already  being bantered about as a possible 2012 veep pick. This speech will only increase that gossip. It’s still a long time before we can honestly talk about 2012 running mates. Plenty can happen — both good and bad — to affect McDonnell’s political fate.

*Perhaps the biggest winners of the night were McDonnell’s sons, Sean and Bobby, who made it onto ESPN’s SportsCenter, thanks to the joke dad cracked about finishing the speech on time. It could be the defining moment for an 18-year-old boy.

All kidding aside, what did you think of McDonnell’s speech?

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