The announcement is expected today. Lt. Governor Bolling’s withdrawal from the race was first reported on the conservative blog Black Velvet Bruce Li and on Twitter by the liberal blogger Ben Tribbett. That was followed by confirmation by CNN political reporter Peter Hamby.
According to POLITICO: It was “a recognition of how difficult it would be to win the nomination,” said one Virginia Republican source about Bolling’s move.
Bolling’s withdrawal avoids what could have been a contentious May 2013 nominating convention pitting him against the tea party favorite Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. He continues to be favored by the far right-wing of the Republican Party.
Cuccinelli was national news when he challenged the federal government on the constitutionality of the mandate in the Affordable Care Act taking it to the U.S. Supreme Court. He lost that battle along with an EPA climate change challenge claiming that their findings were “incredibly far-reaching” and based on flawed scientific data.
Bolling stepped aside in 2009 for than Attorney General Bob McDonnell with McDonnell promising to support him for governor in 2013. McDonnell kept his promise and Rep. Eric Cantor jumped onboard endorsing Bolling as well. The establishment Republicans were all behind him.
The Republican Party of Virginia had first declared that a primary would select their 2013 nominees. That changed as the more conservative wing of the party secured seats in the RPV and Cuccinelli became their candidate of choice. The primary was changed to a convention favoring a Cuccinelli nomination.
The Lt. Governor was disappointed but hung in hoping to garner enough delegates to win at a convention. He made the case for having an advantage in a general election against the presumptive Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe. U.S. Senator Mark Warner had mulled over running for Virginia governor again but announced last week that he would instead seek another term as a U.S. Senator giving McAuliffe the green light.
A Quinnipiac poll held November 12 confirmed that Bolling had a clear advantage in a general election against McAuliffe. It had McAuliffe and Bolling in a statistical tie (McAuliffe 38% – Bolling 36%) with 1469 registered voters and a margin of error at 2.6%. In a match up with Cuccinelli McAuliffe led by 4 points 41% to 37%.
Cuccinelli has only to dust off challenger White House gate-crasher Tareq Salahi at the Republican convention.
Ben Tribbett on twitter and facebook began panicking at what he perceives as a weak Democratic candidate in businessman McAuliffe though polling at this point gives him a four point lead over Cuccinelli. Tribbett and evidently other Democrats are hoping former 5th District Rep. Tom Perriello will decide to enter the gubernatorial race. Perriello is President and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, an advocacy arm of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress.
On October 27 while in Roanoke at the Obama/Biden campaign office Perriello left the door open ever so slightly at an office run sometime in the future but said his work at American Progress was where he planned to concentrate his efforts in the near term. His exact words were “Don’t hold your breath” in answer to the question by this reporter. (He exhibited exhaustion at being asked the question for what must have been the 100th time.)
McAuliffe lost a Democratic primary for Virginia governor in 2009 to Senator Creigh Deeds who went on to lose to than Attorney General Bob McDonnell. President Bill Clinton campaigned for the former DNC chair and is expected to campaign for his friend again. Both Democratic U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine will probably back McAuliffe and maybe even President Obama will give him the nod.
Cuccinelli however faces a wave of anti-conservatism. The question will be whether the departing Governor Bob McDonnell will endorse Cuccinelli. McDonnell who had/has ambition for higher office may distance himself from the extremes of Party joining other Republicans attempting to garner votes from moderates and minorities. Republicans are still licking their wounds from the November presidential and senatorial loses and trying to regain their footing. They are trying to figure out what it will take to field a winning platform and candidate going forward. Will that be a far right-wing candidate like Ken Cuccinelli or an establishment Republican like Bill Bolling.
It’s unclear if Bolling will seek a third term as lieutenant governor or another office. His announement may shed some light on that today.