Sometimes it is hard to keep up with who is saying what about whom.
Wait.. did Terry McAuliffe (D) just applaud Bob McDonnell (R)?
Did Ken Cuccinelli (R) attack McDonnell's transportation plan, but now is working to take credit for it?
Did McDonnell just remind people in a not so delicate way just what role Cuccinelli plays in the legislative process?
The protracted battle over Virginia's new transportation funding plan has led to awkward allies defending and attacking each other at strange times. It is partly because of the short truncated legislative session, partly because it was being negotiated during an election year, and all because of the people involved.
It has created a strange political triangle between the two men who want to be governor and the man who currently has the job.
First let's get a few things straight. McDonnell is a Republican and has endorsed Cuccinelli. He has even thrown a few fundraisers for him.
Cuccinelli is also a Republican, but has been very critical of the McDonnell transportation plan because of it's hefty hike in taxes. He also complicated things late last week when, as part of his day job as Attorney General, he warned that a specific section of the transportation plan was unconstitutional.
Finally, Terry McAuliffe is a Democrat, hoping to beat Cuccinelli. He has not been afraid to attack McDonnell's governorship for its approach to social issues and what he has called a lack of a focus on job creation.
But this controversial transportation deal has forced Republicans to attack Republicans and in this case Democrats to rush to their defense.
As the plan weaved its way through the General Assembly it was Cuccinelli who was one of the plan's biggest opponents. He then issued that public opinion late Friday evening calling the plan unconstitutional. It had the potential to blow the whole deal up.
While Cuccinelli was throwing arrows at McDonnell's plan it was McAuliffe who was there to defend him. He called the bi-partisan deal "historic" and accused of Cuccinelli of pushing gridlock over progress. This was the same McAuliffe who has traveled the state for the last four years spending a lot of his time attacking McDonnell's policies.
McDonnell, meanwhile remained positive. Preferring to ignore Cuccinelli's attacks publicly and instead direct his staff to work with Cuccinelli's staff to craft a solution to the aspects of the plan that concerned the Attorney General as unconstiutional. While on the surface it may have seemed that Cuccinelli's concerns on legality were a surprise, McDonnell said this morning on WTOP radio that the two were in constant contact.
But while McDonnell thanked Cuccinelli as his lawyer for pointing out his legal concerns, McDonnell subtly made it clear that his opinions were just that, opinions. When it comes to policy, he is the decision maker.
"We do not ask for his (Cuccinelli's) permission," said McDonnell. "We ask for his advice."
Meanwhile McAuliffe continued to heap praise on McDonnell for his efforts to forge a compromise and at the same time accused Cuccinelli of working to destroy the plan.
"I applaud Governor McDonnell for once again overcoming last minute roadblocks thrown up by those who prefer extreme gridlock," McAuliffe said in a statement. "By definition, compromise is never perfect for all sides, but Governor McDonnell, Lt. Governor Bolling and Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly came together to make progress for Virginia."
But this triangle wasn't quite done being connected, because it wasn't just McAuliffe looking to praise McDonnell and look for a way to be a part of a successful outcome. Cuccinelli pointed to the role he played in helping the Governor create something that the courts will find sufficient.
“I was honored to work with members of the McDonnell Administration in making sure the legislation was able to move forward without the threat of any legal challenges" he said in a statement. "Moving forward, I remain committed to working to fix Virginia’s transportation problems, which will create jobs and ease the congestion across the Commonwealth.”
Now the plan moves back to the legislature to vote on the final version of the plan. All three corners of this political triangle could play a role in the final outcome. Their role, and the perception of that role, could play a big role into who wins in November.
Mike Valerio's report on the nuts and bolts of the McDonnell amendments can be found below:NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News