The governor still has firmly positive ratings at a time of political discord nationwide. But he has lost support among independents and urban women after a 12-month period that closed with a partisan standoff over the state budget and an uproar over a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to first undergo a vaginal ultrasound.
McDonnell had the legislation amended to instead require an external procedure, but those who opposed the measure are still more likely to disapprove of his job performance.
Forty-four percent of Virginians think the state is moving in the wrong direction — up five points from last year — but those numbers remain considerably lower than those who think the country is on the wrong track, according to the poll.
Suzanne Moore, a retired shop owner from Purcellville, said she was generally pleased with McDonnell’s performance except for his support of the ultrasound law, which she opposes.
“I believe in women’s rights,” said Moore, a 79-year-old independent voter. “I don’t see why they should have to jump through hoops that are put into law by the government that we’re being overrun by.”
Republicans hope McDonnell, an oft-mentioned vice presidential contender, will help deliver Virginia in November, when the state will play a crucial role in determining the outcome of the presidential race and the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. He has traveled the nation in support of presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and campaigned with him last week in Virginia.
As governor and head of the Republican Governors Association, McDonnell has developed a national following, appearing regularly on news programs and at GOP dinners. He began airing TV ads
about his successes in Virginia and on Monday will start a tour of the state to highlight its low unemployment rate and top business rankings.
Fifty-two percent of women in Virginia approve of McDonnell’s job performance despite an 11 percentage point increase in his disapproval rating. Among independent women his disapproval jumped by 18 points.
More than seven in 10 independent voters, men and women, say that adding McDonnell to a national ticket would not affect their presidential choice — 8 percent are more likely to back Romney and 18 percent say it would push them toward President Obama.
Doug Murray, 70, an independent voter who said he probably would cast his ballot for Romney, said McDonnell spends too much time thinking about his next job.
“I think he’s a professional politician,” said Murray, who owns a real estate company in Roanoke. “He feels too much like the party line. I would like someone who has the backbone to say what he thinks.”