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Republican's Thesis Is Focus Of Va. Race

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Republican's Thesis Is Focus Of Va. Race

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Republican's Thesis Is Focus Of Va. Race

Republican's Thesis Is Focus Of Va. Race

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The Republican candidate in the governor's race in Virginia is distancing himself from views he expressed 20 years ago in his graduate thesis about working women, contraceptives, gays and divorce. Jeff Schapiro, political reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, says Robert McDonnell made the argument that his views have changed over time.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The Republican candidate for governor of Virginia finds himself on the defensive this week. Robert McDonnell is trying to distance himself from views he expressed 20 years ago on working women, contraception, gays and divorce, among other social issues. The subject is McDonnell's 1989 thesis submitted for a masters and juris doctorate degree at the conservative Christian university founded by Pat Robertson. The thesis is titled "The Republican Party's Vision for the Family." And in that thesis, the then 34-year-old McDonnell wrote that working women and feminists are detrimental to the family. Government policy, he wrote, should favor married couples over, in his words, cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators.

Jeff Schapiro is covering the story for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. And Jeff, let's lay out just a bit more of what Robert McDonnell wrote in this thesis 20 years ago. For one thing, he's a proponent of covenant marriage. Why don't you explain that?

Mr. JEFF SCHAPIRO (Political Reporter, Richmond Times-Dispatch): Covenant marriage. "I really do" marriage. In a covenant marriage, a husband and a wife pledge in advance to take extraordinary steps to preserve their union should it hit difficult shoals.

BLOCK: Okay. He also had things to say in this thesis about contraception. What did he say?

Mr. SCHAPIRO: Yes. His word was illogical when describing a decision by the Supreme Court in 1972 legalizing the use of contraception by unmarried couples.

BLOCK: And McDonnell listed what he considered the real enemies of the traditional family, among them: materialism, lust and feminism.

Mr. SCHAPIRO: Yes. And of course he has made it clear, some years after the fact, that he sees women as making invaluable contributions, particularly in the workplace and went to great lengths in his conference call yesterday to tick them off.

BLOCK: Yeah, let's talk about that conference call. He was defending himself, and we're going to listen to a little bit of it now. He's referring here to the last time he campaigned against his Democratic rival Creigh Deeds in 2005.

Representative ROBERT MCDONNELL (Republican, Virginia): Back in 2005, when we were competing during that last couple of months, my daughter was shipping off to Iraq. And I strongly support women in the military, support women in the workplace. And for my opponent to suggest otherwise, it's insulting to me and to my family.

BLOCK: What else - Jeff Schapiro, what else has Robert McDonnell said to explain what he wrote about in this thesis?

Mr. SCHAPIRO: Well, he made the argument that over time, his views have changed, that he was writing from the perspective of a young Catholic, a former military officer and someone who was greatly influenced by Reagan Republicanism. Now, two decades on, he says that his views have changed, that they have been modified by real-life experience. For example, his attitudes about working women and the contributions they make to the economy, to the political discourse.

BLOCK: And the Creigh Deeds campaign, his Democratic rival is saying, absolutely not. This reflects exactly how Robert McDonnell would govern if he's elected governor.

Mr. SCHAPIRO: The Democrats are saying what you see, or in his case, what you read, is what you will get. But Creigh Deeds has a bigger challenge and it's the headwind coming out of Washington. The state went to President Obama in November, but his standing has declined considerably. And that's creating problems for the Deeds campaign. This thesis, if you will, has presented the Democrats with an opportunity not just to invigorate their base, but perhaps appeal to election-deciding Independents.

BLOCK: Do you think Democrats will be able to capitalize on this in the state of Virginia?

Mr. SCHAPIRO: Well, initially the Democrats should be able to capitalize on this in terms of getting the attention of core Democratic voters, many of whom have been inattentive of this campaign. So here's an opportunity to get them focused, get them marching in a straight line.

BLOCK: Jeff Schapiro, political reporter with the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Thanks very much.

Mr. SCHAPIRO: Thank you.

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