Until this week, Robert McDonnell was indisputably one of the rising stars of the GOP. But the Virginia governor's decision to reinstate Confederate History Month without acknowledging slavery — an omission he later rectified — is being seen as a potentially career-threatening misstep. Some say the "second-tier stardom" McDonnell achieved before this gaffe made him a possible presidential or vice presidential candidate in 2012. Has he wrecked those prospects? (Watch Bob McDonnell's apology)

He's thrown away his advantage: McDonnell was once considered a "post-ideological 'future face of the Republican Party,'" says John Dickerson in Slate. But he just might have thrown his reputation as a moderate Republican away by "trying to appeal to conservatives," most of whom "already like him pretty well." This is just the "latest proof" of a party "trying too hard to appease its base."
"Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell completely reverses himself on the issue of slavery"

Let's not get ahead of ourselves: No one outside the Beltway considers McDonnell a 2012 contender, says Reid Wilson in the National Journal. He has only been governor for three months, and "that isn't enough time to establish a real record on which to run" in 2012, even as VP. But the governor's quick correction of his mistake demonstrated his political "savvy." It won't be the last we see of him. 
"McDonnell gaffe may not hurt"

Mistakes don't matter... unless they're racial: It's usually unfair to determine that a politician's one mistake "is the single thing that will make or break him," says Chris Cillizza in the Washington Post. But "matters of race" are different. This may not define McDonnell's political future, but it will certainly "slow his upward trajectory — at least in the near term." A 2012 run looks impossible.
"Bob McDonnell, the Confederacy and the Veepstakes"