There may never be a fully satisfactory explanation for why a politician of such promise behaved so recklessly. Though the indictments were not unexpected, some longtime McDonnell associates are still in a state of shock and disbelief. Republican fundraiser Bobbie Kilberg, a steadfast McDonnell ally, said she simply did not believe the charges leveled against her friend and called the indictments a “witch hunt.”
“It makes me want to cry. It really does. The Bob McDonnell I know is not the Bob McDonnell portrayed in that indictment,” she said. “I just don’t think those things happened. He said he showed some poor judgment and he apologized for that. To destroy his legacy of public service — it’s despicable.”
The common thread throughout McDonnell’s career is the “Just win, baby” determination of a born political competitor — an upbeat appreciation for politics as sport that set him apart from some of his most prominent GOP contemporaries, including characters as varied as Sarah Palin and Chris Christie, who have succeeded by channeling the rhetoric of anger and grievance. Instead, McDonnell’s sunny demeanor and personal drive propelled him from a Virginia Beach-based state legislative district to a razor-thin win in the 2005 state attorney general’s race and then to his landslide victory in a gubernatorial election four years later.