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Steve Helber, Associated Press
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell

RICHMOND, Va. — It's not an endorsement by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, but he's fond of fellow governors when he ponders the current crop of GOP presidential contenders.

McDonnell, often mentioned in speculation about possible 2012 GOP running mates, was asked during his monthly call-in show Tuesday on Norfolk's WNIS radio about the GOP presidential contenders.

He noted a new statewide poll showing businessman Herman Cain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tied for the GOP lead in Virginia while Texas Gov. Rick Perry plunged sharply.

Romney and Cain had 21 percent each to top Tuesday's Quinnipiac University poll while Perry had gone from a clear lead at 25 percent in September to a distant third with 11 percent. Cain surged from 6 percent a month ago. The margin of sampling error in the subset of 345 registered Republican voters Quinnipiac interviewed by phone from Oct. 5-9 was plus or minus 5.3 percentage points.

McDonnell said it shows his party's diversity that Cain, a black man, and Romney, a Mormon, are leading. Then, he was asked by the show's host, Tony Macrini, whether Cain could be a strong candidate having never run for election before.

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"I wouldn't in any way undermine Mr. Cain's vast experience and success in business," McDonnell said. "Of course, I am biased after 20 years in office. It does help to have some political experience. That's why I said I think our best candidate would be a current or former governor, someone who's had to balance budgets, make decisions, be held directly accountable for the economic status of the state."

McDonnell was a member of the House of Delegates and served one term as Virginia's attorney general before he was elected governor in 2009.

Perry is the only incumbent governor in the Republican presidential field. Former governors are Romney and Jon Huntsman, a former Utah governor.

Sarah Palin, who was John McCain's 2008 GOP running mate and later resigned as Alaska's governor, announced last week she would not run for president in 2012.