In a what had become a patient waiting game for the past 5 plus years, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, who had hoped to have an unimpeded march to the GOP nomination for governor will end his campaign as soon as this weekend.
Bolling's departure leaves the field wide open for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to easily coast to the nomination. The only other remaining announced candidate is White House party crasher Tareq Salahi.
The news is surprising at first glance because Bolling seemed determined to not be pushed out of a race for Virginia's top elected official. More than four years ago he gracefully stepped aside under similar circumstances to allow then Attorney General Bob McDonnell to run for the nomination unopposed.
While Bolling and McDonnell embraced the opportunity to run together, Bolling made it clear this was the only time he was going to step aside and vowed to fend off any challenge from Cuccinelli. When Cuccinelli's plans were revealed Bolling stood up to the Attorney General and appeared ready to take him on.
The dynamics for Bolling changed dramatically when Cuccinelli operatives engineered a change to the nominating contest. Instead of a statewide primary, Republicans will now select their candidates in a convention. Conventions generally bring out the party die-hards, a group that Cuccinelli is very popular with. Cuccinelli and his staff are also masters at running and winning convention nominating contests.
In addition to the challenges presented by taking on Cuccinelli in a convention, many polls showed Bolling trailing Cuccinelli with republican voters and performing only marginally better against potential democratic rivals.
It appears the math and the reality was something Bolling, who is a very rational man, came to grips with.
While we are confident Bolling will end his campaign for governor, we don't know what his next step will be. Will he endorse Cuccinelli? Will he take a step back and mount a plan for a 2014 run for U.S. Senate? Will he leave elected life?
We could begin to learn some of these answers as soon as this weekend as republicans begin to gear up for 2013 at their RPV Advance in Virginia Beach.
UPDATE: Bolling officially announced his decision to suspend his campaign with a statement this morning:Statement of Lieutenant Governor Bolling Regarding Campaign for Governor
RICHMOND – Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling issued the following statement today regarding his decision to suspend his campaign for the Republican Party’s nomination for Governor of Virginia.
“When I was growing up my dad was a coal miner and my mom waited tables. We didn't have much, but my parents instilled in me a love of Virginia. I never dreamed that I would one day have a chance to help lead this wonderful state, but thanks to you, that has been my privilege.
“Throughout my 21 years in public service I have done my best to stand strong for our shared conservative values, while at the same time working with Republicans and Democrats to get things done in state government. I think that effort has been successful, and I hope you agree.
“For the past seven years I have had the honor of serving as Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor, and it had been my intention to seek the Republican Party’s nomination for Governor in 2013. However, not everything we want in life is meant to be.
“After a great deal of consideration I have decided to suspend my campaign for the Republican Party's nomination for Governor of Virginia. Needless to say, this was a very difficult decision for me, and I know it will come as a surprise and disappointment to many, but I am confident it is the right decision.
“Four years ago I decided to set my personal ambition to be Governor aside and join with Bob McDonnell to create a united Republican ticket. Time has proven the wisdom of that decision. Governor McDonnell and I were elected in 2009 by historic margins, and for the past three years we have successfully worked together to get Virginia back on the right track.
“I had hoped that Attorney General Cuccinelli and I would be able to form that same kind of united Republican ticket in 2013. However, late last year Mr. Cuccinelli unexpectedly announced that he intended to challenge me for the Republican Party's nomination for Governor.
“While I was surprised and disappointed by Mr. Cuccinelli's decision, I was confident in my ability to win our party's nomination for Governor in a statewide primary election, which was the method of nomination that had previously been adopted by the State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia.
“However, in June of this year the newly constituted State Central Committee voted to change the manner in which we will nominate our candidates in 2013 from a statewide primary to a closed party convention. While I did not support that decision, it 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. 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.
“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.
“Conventions are by their very nature exclusive, and at a time when we need to be projecting a positive image and reaching out to involve more Virginians in the Republican Party, I am unwilling to be part of a process that could seriously damage our image and appeal.
“While it may have been in my self-interest to have continued the campaign and done my best to win without regard to the consequences of those actions, I have never chosen to place my self-interest ahead of our Party's best interest, and I will not do so now.
“I know that my decision will surprise most people and disappoint many people, but I'm confident it is the right decision. I hope that my friends and supporters, as well as those who have chosen to support Mr. Cuccinelli, will respect and appreciate the reasons for my decision.
“It has been a great honor to serve as Lieutenant Governor of Virginia for the past seven years, and I wouldn’t trade the experiences and opportunities we have had for anything in the world.
“I look forward to serving the remainder of my term as Lieutenant Governor and as Virginia's Chief Jobs Creation Officer, and working with Governor McDonnell and the rest of our great team to build a better Virginia.
“Jean Ann and I want to personally thank everyone who has done so much to support us over the years, and I especially want to thank the thousands of people who had already pledged their support to my campaign for Governor. Their support means more to us than words can express. My greatest regret in suspending my campaign is the thought that I have let them down.
“In the coming days Jean Ann and I will be evaluating our future political options. I love Virginia and I value public service a great deal. I assure you that I will continue to look for ways to make a contribution to the public life of our Commonwealth.
“I intend to remain actively involved in the 2013 campaigns – perhaps not as the Republican nominee for Governor, but as a more independent voice, making certain that the candidates keep their focus on the important issues facing our state and offer a positive and realistic vision for effectively and responsibly leading Virginia”