By MATT MCNAB
TAMPA, FLA. - Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's address Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention closely followed the day's message of "we built it."
"Big government didn't build America," McDonnell said. "Small businesses don't come out of Washington, D.C., pre-made on flatbed trucks."
McDonnell was one of a handful of Republican governors who spoke Tuesday night. He said all have contributed to job growth in their respective states and closed $65 billion in budget shortfalls.
"While the president talks, Republican governors lead," he said. "Talk is cheap. Results matter. Conservative fiscal policies are working, and so are more Americans in states with Republican governors. Our great country can no longer afford the job-destroying policies coming out of Washington, D.C."
McDonnell's prominent role and Tuesday speech at the Republican convention reflect Virginia's place as a battleground state this year. He also leads the Republican Governors Association and has been talked about as a potential presidential candidate in the future.
Next week, during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, the head of the Democratic Governors Association, is expected to play a similarly prominent role.
McDonnell applauded Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney as someone "who understands the economy," and told the crowd "we need President Mitt Romney."
"He is someone who has created jobs in the private sector, who understands the economy, and who has actually balanced a budget, or heck, for that matter, who has actually passed a budget," he said. "We will restore that American Dream that brought my grandfather here from Ireland 100 years ago. And it all starts with electing Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan this November."
The convention's message was picked as a dig at a comment President Barack Obama made in a speech in McDonnell's home state July 13.
"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help," Obama said. "Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."
Republicans quickly took Obama to task for the remark, using the section "you didn't build that" to create Tuesday's theme.
"We need a president who will say to a small businesswoman 'congratulations, we applaud your success, you did make that happen, you did build that,'" McDonnell said.
Maryland Republican Party 2nd Vice Chairman Larry Helminiak called McDonnell a "natural" as he complimented the governor's speech.
"McDonnell's speech was fantastic," he said. "Even under time constraints he was great."
Helminiak said the growth in Virginia under McDonnell has caused business owners from Maryland to flee the state for better conditions.
"Because of the growth in Virginia, frustrated Marylanders are taking their business to Virginia when they would've taken it to Pennsylvania," he said.