By MATT FLEMING
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Virginia's Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell was dispatched to the Democratic National Convention Thursday to open fire on the Obama administration, a role much like that his neighbor Gov. Martin O'Malley played last week at the GOP convention.
McDonnell joined other Republicans at a news conference at the temporary Republican headquarters inside NASCAR Plaza, calling attention to high gas prices, a high unemployment rate and the national deficit, and unveiling a new anti-Obama ad that is scheduled for release following the convention.
"On Monday, we learned that gas prices are the highest they've been on Labor Day in the history of America," said McDonnell. "On Tuesday, we learned that the national debt had reached $16 trillion."
But scheduled for Friday, the governor said: "We're going to wake up at about 9 o'clock in the morning, and we are going to get the next jobs report. That jobs report is going to undoubtedly say that for 43 months—every month of the Obama presidency with the exception of his first—that the unemployment rate of the United States of America is over 8 percent."
Democrat O'Malley went on the attack in Tampa, Fla., last week outside the Republican National Convention.
McDonnell's talk wasn't all negative, though. He repeatedly made reference to the president's oratorical skills, but only as a segue to further criticism.
"Undoubtedly, we will hear a very good speech from President Obama," said McDonnell. "It's one of the things he does very well." But he then referred to the campaign as "small ball," focused on tax returns, Bain Capital and social issues.
Meanwhile, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, a political analyst for MSNBC, has been on the set all week at "Morning Joe," where he is a regular contributor. The show is broadcasting from Charlotte's Epicentre for the Democratic National Convention.
The former chairman of the Republican National Committee has never shied away from criticizing the current administration, but chose to walk the middle ground during a one-on-one interview outside the BlackFinn Saloon—"Morning Joe's" temporary set.
"I've enjoyed both of them," said Steele about the Republican and Democratic conventions. "When you do both of these you really get to see them from a different perspective and I think both conventions have two different missions that they had to accomplish; I think the GOP accomplished their mission last week with Mitt Romney and tonight the Democrats will finish theirs."
He likened Michelle Obama's speech to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, touting the two as his favorites from the past two weeks.
"The first lady's speech, to me, was just a powerful testimony—not just to the relationship between her and the president, but their combined vision," said Steele. "In Tampa it was Condi—Condi Rice opened up some doors for the GOP that I hope we go through in the next few years."
"Because I think it's going to be important steps to take for the party to be competitive and relevant as this country changes demographically, politically, economically, and we need to be in the mix," said Steele. "Those two speeches for me so far - and we'll see what the president does tonight—really struck a chord."