McDonnell Applauded for Avoiding Flubs

Liberals praise the State of the Union response for dodging disaster. Conservatives see the making of a GOP star.

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Bob McDonnell seems to have taken notes from our post collecting advice on his State of the Union response. Avoiding Jindal's gaffes, changing venues, and delivering a collected speech that lacked partisan barbs, McDonnell delivered a speech that impressed pundits for its solidness and moderation. Liberals wryly complimented the Virginia governor for simply dodging snafus. Conservatives, meanwhile, take the performance as further evidence that McDonnell is the GOP’s rising champion.

  • Not Great, But Good Enough says Matthew Yglesias at Think Progress. “I think Bob McDonnell gave arguably the best SOTU response I’ve ever seen—the choice to go with an audience is a big win. It still wasn’t a good speech, per se, but it didn’t suck. And that’s a triumph.”
  • As Good As It Gets concludes Newsweek's Katie Connolly, pondering McDonnell’s “awkward predicament” of following the President that leads to “forgivable gaffes, like McDonnell’s digs about nuclear power and offshore drilling even though the President had expressed support for both” Under the circumstances, claims Connolly, McDonnell did fine:
Not only did McDonnell have to immediately follow one of the most remarkable orators in recent memory, he had to respond to over 70 minutes of presidential grand narrative in just ten, all without knowing what Obama had in store... If McDonnell had made news, it would likely be because of a screw-up, so McDonnell’s capable, cordial but uninteresting performance is probably the best outcome he could hope for.
  • No Humiliation Here writes The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle. “Bob McDonnell did not utterly humiliate himself, which is a big win for a SOTU response. There were a couple of minor "That's interesting" moments with financial reform and gays in the military, but mostly it was both sides saying, "I wish you'd help me enact my agenda, America."”

  • He Avoided Political Disaster Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen notes that while McDonnell’s response seemed fairly conventional-- and the choice of venue made McDonnell come across "as the president of a much smaller country"--he was successful in the grand scheme of State of the Union responses: “Giving the official response to the State of the Union -- any president's State of the Union -- tends to be the kiss of death for any political figure of note…it was largely a pass/fail test, so McDonnell should probably be pleased.”

  • Much Better Than Jindal Chris Rovzar at Daily Intel notes that the State of the Union response is always a “sketchy affair” when it comes to message and content, “penned without knowledge of exactly what the president will say, so it's intentionally partisan and vague.” However, Rovnar observes that the GOP certainly picked up a few things after Bobby Jindal’s disastrous 2009 response, if only aesthetically:
1) Put a handsome, eloquent man up against that other eloquent, handsome man.
2) If that means sacrificing diversity, round up some diversity to put on camera in the background. How about an Asian dude, a black lady, a cute blonde, and a service member?
4) For the love of God, include a live studio audience. After all the applause during the State of the Union, a speech without an eager audience is always going to seem flat.
  • Keep Your Eyes On This One Conservative blogger Scared Monkeys marvels at everything from McDonnell's message to the venue, finally concluding "McDonnell is a star in the making."
  • Presidential Material? Clifton Brown at Another Black Conservative sees more than just a successful response to Obama’s address. “I like that McDonnell took the high road and avoided any partisan shots at Obama…All in all, McDonnell turned in one of the best GOP response, I have seen in a long time. He also looked quite presidential doing it too. Mitt Romney beware.”
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