As Sally predicted on this blog, reports of Republican Robert McDonnell's 20 year old thesis have caught the attention of the press and threaten to erode his lead over Democrat Creigh Deeds. Only time will tell whether McDonnell's views will drive moderates--who have been flocking to his pro-growth candidacy--to Deeds.
Like I said yesterday--this is fair game. Jim Webb's indiscreet musings in the late 80's found their way into his Senate race, where the public was able to hear them and he was forced to defend himself. Likely, McDonnell will do what Webb did and claim to have evolved politically and personally--which is really all one can do anyway in this situation.
I've talked about this phenomenon before, this "evolution" in people's political thinking. We had a wee taste of it when the New York Times dogged investigative team turned up editorials written by a youthful Barack Obama in his college newspaper (5 months AFTER the election) that showed his strong identification with theories of social justice, income redistribution, and collectivism. Obama's "evolution" was one in which he grew to realize that such views were not mainstream, and that they needed to be leavened by moderation in order to appeal to the electorate. Now in power, we see fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and Barack's gotta socialize.
In the interest of fairness, I think the same is true of Bob McDonnell. Nobody held a gun to his head when he wrote what he wrote. There was no fawning crowd of campaign toadies to tell him how wonderful he is. There was only him (he?) and his word-processor, and into it he poured out his deep inner leanings. Has he leavened them with moderation over the years, the years that coincided with his rise as a statewide political figure? Yes. Do I suspect that he continues to hold those views? You betchya. Is Bob McDonnell likely to be hostile to gay marriage? I think so. Is he going to promote pro-nuclear family policies? Yes. Is he likely to support state benefits (like medical insurance) to the gay partners of state employees? Probably not.
Conservatives must not get a case of the vapors over this. Fiery, ideological rhetoric is the plaything of the university thinker--be he Barry Obama or Bob McDonnell. It is good and right that the press bring forward these stories because youthful views often are at the political kernel of the adult person, layered over with the realities of what is necessary to be elected. There are of course, instances in which one starts out in one ideological direction and then switches course, but that involves a thoroughgoing repudiation of one's past political thinking, something neither Obama nor McDonnell has done.
McDonnell only has to point to Ted Kennedy being pro-life (before Roe v. Wade). Or Robert Byrd's well-known KKK days. All he needs to do is point to more famous and more egregious cases of political "evolution" to show that he's really not all that different....he just grew up. He'll lose some folks in the middle over this, that's for sure. But he can still win the election.