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All access with Gov. Bob McDonnell

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR)-  Governor Bob McDonnell is the most powerful man in Virginia and is attracting attention around the country during this heated political season. CBS 6 spent the day with McDonnell to learn more about his strategy for maintaining a high public approval rating and his future plans.

McDonnell tells CBS 6, during a time when the public’s trust in politicians is wavering, he maintains a high approval rating through bipartisanship. “I try and tone down the rhetoric. One thing that’s broken in Washington is there’s kind of a, we win, you lose mentality. We don’t do that here.”  In fact, the governor gives state democrats credit for much of his success. With their help, the governor managed to get a majority of his legislation approved by the Virginia General Assembly and produce a one billion dollar budget surplus during a two year period.

While that gives the governor reason to celebrate and smile, we wanted to know what he regrets. “There are a couple of decisions that we could have done differently,” says McDonnell. One of those decisions involves the Virginia Retirement System. In 2010, the governor decided to hold off on paying into the system to balance the budget. “Maybe we should have cut more and not done that deferment,” says McDonnell.

Despite rising approval from the public, McDonnell has his critics. The governor created a buzz when trying to privatize the state’s ABC stores. That plan fizzled out, which he told us he regrets.  McDonnell says revenue from selling off ABC property could have been used to fund transportation projects, but, some high-ranking democrats say the governor needs to focus on more important items, like education spending. “Money is important, but, if you really look at what leads to outcome, it’s rigor, accountability, great teachers and parental involvement.”

After the governor’s state work was done, he invited our crew up to the private quarters at the executive mansion, where no camera has been during his time in office. There, he prepared for a CNBC interview to push for republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.  There’s been speculation that if Romney gets the nomination, McDonnell will try and head to Washington with him. The Washington Post puts McDonnell at number two on its list of hypothetical vice presidential contenders list.

The governor says he’d consider the position if offered, but, “I haven’t gotten any calls yet,” says McDonnell.  He goes on to say that he’s focused on the job he does have as Virginia’s 71st governor. “I learned as a young lieutenant in the army that if you start looking too far down the road and you don’t keep your eye on the first hill and the first mission, you lose battles,” McDonnell tells CBS 6.