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RICHMOND (AP) -- Gov. Bob McDonnell will deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address next Wednesday.
The designation tags McDonnell as a rising star in his party after winning back the governor's office for the GOP the home state of Obama's hand-picked Democratic National Committee chairman, Timothy M. Kaine.
McDonnell's blowout victory over Democratic state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds and a GOP victory in New Jersey's gubernatorial race signaled a turnaround for the party after a Democratic sweep just one year earlier. Republican Scott Brown continued the momentum Tuesday with his shocking special election victory in heavily Democratic Massachusetts to fill the seat of Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Republican leaders in Congress announced the decision on Thursday in a statement, saying that McDonnell 'understands that the American people are more interested in shrinking unemployment than expanding government.'
McDonnell was inaugurated this past week.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio asked McDonnell to deliver the party's response, the governor's office said.
It reprises a role that Kaine used in his first month as Virginia's governor four years ago to thrust himself on his party's national stage. Kaine delivered the Democratic response to then-President George W. Bush's State of the Union address.
One year later, Kaine became the first governor outside of Obama's home state of Illinois to endorse his newly launched presidential bid, and Obama last year became the first Democrat in 44 years to carry Virginia in a presidential race.
But delivering the out-of-power party's rebuttal carries risks.
Last year, another rising Republican star, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jidal, earned less-than-rave reviews as he criticized the stimulus program a still-popular Obama had prescribed for a fearful country in a grim economy.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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