Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) has decided to drop out of the gubernatorial race for 2013, a move that virtually guarantees that Republicans will choose Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) as their nominee.
Bolling based his decision on the difficulty of defeating Cuccinelli at the state party's nominating convention, set to be held May 18 in Richmond. Cuccinelli kicked off a drive to register convention delegates during the last week and reported in a message to supporters on Tuesday an "amazing response" to date. Bolling had been questioning Cuccinelli’s electability in the general election.
Bolling said in a statement this morning that the state party’s decision to nominate candidates at a convention instead of a primary “had a dramatic impact on the 2013 campaign.
“For the past several months my campaign team has worked hard to restructure our campaign to effectively compete in the convention process,” said Bolling. “While we have made a great deal of progress, I reluctantly concluded that the decision to change the method of nomination from a primary to a convention created too many obstacles for us to overcome.”
He added, “In addition, I know how divisive conventions can be, and I was concerned that a prolonged campaign between Mr. Cuccinelli and me could create deep divisions within our party. The convention process would have forced Republican activists to take sides against their friends in local committees all across our state. The wounds that can develop from that type of process are often difficult to heal.”
Meanwhile, the attorney general is already fundraising against Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. Bolling's move allows Cuccinelli to focus all of his fire on McAuliffe, which means the general election race will likely kick-start even earlier now.
This is the second time Bolling has allowed someone else to take the nomination instead of fight for it himself. In 2009, he opted to seek re-election instead of challenging now-Gov. Bob McDonnell (R). The two ran as a ticket instead and McDonnell, in turn, endorsed Bolling for 2013 over Cuccinelli.
Bolling also served as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's state party chairman this election cycle. Democrats privately and publicly have been gearing up for Cuccinelli. Outgoing state party chairman Brian Moran wrote in fundraising e-mail on Nov. 27 that the election will determine “whether we move forward together or allow Ken Cuccinelli and the Republicans to drag us backward.”
He later added, “Your support will help Virginia Democrats and our campaigns fight the McDonnell-Cuccinelli money machine.”