Today was a big day for Governor Bob McDonnell. The House and Senate conferees have struck a deal for a long term funding stream for transportation in Virginia. The plan still needs the approval of the full legislative bodies, but is unquestionably the furthest any serious reform has made it since the late 80's.
If it passes it will be a significant victory for the Governor and notch a key win he can point to for his legacy as Virginia's Chief Executive.
But what about a future run for political office? McDonnell is a young man, and is considered ambitious. Few observers believe he has run his last campaign. He has often been considered a potential candidate for Senate, perhaps a challenge to Mark Warner in 2014 or even a candidate for president in 2016.
Grover Norquist, the influential president of the group Americans for Tax Reform, believes this deal is enough to derail McDonnell's future ambition.
"If the governor continues to push a tax increase in Virginia what party would he run for president for?" Norquist asked, during an extensive interview on Tuesday.
Norquist may not be a household name, but he wields incredible influence in the right wing of the GOP. In general that is the group that picks the Republican nominee for president. During our interview Norquist quickly named a long list of Republican governors who have cut taxes during their time in office. Many of them are on most short lists for the 2016 nomination.
Norquist believes competing with those resumes will be tough to contend with.
"Virginia's raising taxes?" he asked. "You don't get to run for president as a Republican with 30 Republicans governors most of whom (are cutting taxes)".
The Washington heavy hitter also believes that many of these governors still found ways to improve their transportation infrastructure, without raising taxes as this new plan will do.
"You have all sorts of governors cutting taxes and building roads because they prioritize roads," he said. "I don't think you can compete with raising taxes in order to not build roads."
Governor McDonnell's office chose not to respond to our interview with Norquist.
Just how much influence Norquist has is up for debate. Certainly it sways more in a presidential campaign than it would in a race for Senate. Particularly in a state like Virginia which is becoming increasingly purple and less red. If McDonnell plans to run another statewide campaign, pointing to a successful transportation funding plan, especially one other governors tried and failed to accomplish would be significant.
Also, it seems that McDonnell has never cared all that much what Grover Norquist thinks. He is not among the 32 Virginia lawmakers to sign on to his anti-tax pledge.
No matter what, the ultimate outcome of this vote will play a big role in the way the McDonnell governorship is remembered.
I've posted the full interview below once again. The section on McDonnell's future begins at 7:05.