McAuliffe offers qualified support for Bob McDonnell amid 'Giftgate'

(Photo: Skip Wood)

Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe toured Todos Supermarket in Woodbridge late Monday morning, doing all the usual things candidates do when making such visits.

He admired a loaf of bread. He went behind the deli counter for a brief tour of the kitchen. He made small talk with a handful of employees and more or less was given the run of the store by owner and founder Carlos Castro as mostly puzzled shoppers glanced quizzically, if at all, at the man being followed down the canned vegetables aisle by television cameras and reporters.

It was the low-key launch of the “Latinos con Terry” campaign, and he said and did all the right things (the Dream Act? He’s for it) while stressing his support for the Latino community. Afterward, though, McAuliffe turned his attention to the place he hopes to inhabit: the Executive Mansion in Richmond.

Specifically, he was asked whether Gov. Bob McDonnell should resign amid the growing scandal surrounding gifts and “loans” the governor received from businessman Jonnie R. Williams of Star Scientific, as some – including Del. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) and Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) – have suggested.

McAuliffe’s answer? No – although it took him a while to get there.

“I’ve been very consistent on this -- it’s up the governor to make his own decisions, McAuliffe said. “What should not be done is, the governor should not be tried and convicted in the media. There’s a grand jury, obviously, going on, they’re collecting the facts, and I’m a big believer (in letting) the facts speak for themselves.

“Let’s go through the investigation, and looking at it today, I don't think the governor should resign. It’s his decision. If he’s not doing it himself, I shouldn’t be telling him to do it. This is what you have investigations for, and I’ve never been a fan of convicting folks before you’ve had an investigation. So, he’s got to make that decision. Until he does it, I want the facts to come out and let the facts speak for themselves.”

His opponent, GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli, also had limited links to Star Scientific but has severed all ties and says it’s not for the attorney general to say whether the governor should resign. One person who did Monday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe was Robert Gibbs, former adviser and spokesman for President Obama.

"I think at some point, you begin to really and truly ask the question, that is it time for Gov. McDonnell to step aside, honestly?,” Gibbs said. “We’ve had this drip, drip, drip of embarrassing allegations. And I say ‘embarrassing’, I don’t know if $120,000 in unreported loans, (well), that should be probably worth larger than embarrassment on this."

Gibbs’ bottom line: "We have an election coming up, and maybe it’s time for a caretaker governor until we get to that election."

Then there are the late-night comedians who have had fun with the situation and the aforementioned drip-drip nature of it. Asked whether the saga is hurting Virginia’s reputation, McAuliffe was quick with his response.

“Well, listen, it’s not helpful, obviously, to have all these stories out there,” he said, “but I always come down on the side of: I give everybody the benefit of the doubt. It’s just my personality.

“I just think, listen, this is why you have investigations. . .Virginians are fair, and we have a sense of fairness about these types of things, so let’s let it run its course.”