Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) announced Tuesday that he will not run for governor as an independent, setting up an all-but-certain, grueling head-to-head matchup between Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe.
Bolling, who ended his bid for the Republican nomination late last year when the party decided to hold a nominating convention rather than a primary to choose its standard-bearer, did not offer an endorsement, despite his apparent antipathy toward Cuccinelli and generally positive comments about McAuliffe in recent months.
Bolling's announcement is likely to be a boon for Cuccinelli, as polls showed Bolling attracting more Republican support than Democratic support as an independent. Former White House party crasher Tareq Salahi is gathering petition signatures to run as an independent but is not considered a viable threat to either candidate.
Bolling proclaimed his decision not to run in a press release issued two days before his previously planned March 14 announcement date.
He said that "after a great deal of consideration I have decided that I will not be an Independent candidate for Governor this year." He instead claimed that he plans to return to the private sector.
"Based on my discussions with key donors over the past three weeks, I was confident I could raise enough money to run a competitive campaign, but I was not confident I could raise enough money to run a winning campaign," wrote Bolling.
Another concern for him is that running as an independent would have required him to cut his "longstanding relationship with the Republican Party."
"While I am very concerned about the current direction of the Republican Party, I still have many dear friends in the Republican Party, people who have been incredibly supportive of me over the years," said Bolling, later adding, "Maintaining their friendship and respect means more to me than the prospects of being Governor and I was unwilling to jeopardize these longstanding relationships by embarking on an Independent campaign."
Lastly, Bolling chided the political environment within the commonwealth. "In many ways I fear that the 'Virginia way' of doing things is rapidly being replaced by the 'Washington way' of doing things and that's not good for Virginia," said Bolling. "As a result, the political process has become much more ideologically driven, hyper-partisan and mean spirited. ... While I still value public service a great deal, the truth is that I just don't find the political process to be as enjoyable as I once did."
Bolling wished McAuliffe and Cuccinelli well and encouraged them to "run campaigns that are worthy of Virginia." However, he echoed McAuliffe's key talking points at the end of his statement, perhaps implying a subtle nod to the Democrat. Both candidates have accused Cuccinelli of operating outside of the ideological "mainstream" of Virginia.
"Our priority should be on electing a Governor who has the ability to effectively and responsibly govern our state and provide the mainstream leadership we need to solve problems, get things done and make Virginia a better place to live," said Bolling. "Nothing less should be acceptable."