In hind sight it seems like an easy pick to make. Mitt Romney has all the makings of a GOP nominee for president and was pretty much the front runner for 2012 as soon as the 2008 race came to a close. But while republican leaders across the state and here in Virginia took their time in picking their candidates, no one can claim that they were on the Romney train earlier than Lt. Governor Bill Bolling.
Bolling was a Romney backer before it was conventional wisdom to be a Romney backer. Even more, Bolling got on Romney's team as a southern leader, which wasn't easy particularly given Romney's reputation pre-2008 which was that of a moderate from the northeast. Bolling was the first southern state wide elected leader to endorse Romney. An endorsement he provided in 2007. By contrast, Governor Bob McDonnell did not endorse Romney until late in the primary of 2012.
"We've been working together about five years now," Bolling said of his relationship with Romney. "I have absolute confidence in this man and his ability to get this country back on the right track."
I vividly remember Bolling and his team gearing up for a primary fight in 2008, hoping to steal momentum away from a surging John McCain. Romney conceded and endorsed McCain shortly before the Virginia primary. McCain easily beat Mike Huckabee in the "Potomac Primary" and eventually captured the nomination.
While Romney wasn't successful in 2008, Bolling did not give up on him. He got involved in his 2012 plans right away and serves as his Virginia state co-chair, which has become an increasingly important position given the Commonwealth's distinction as a top five swing state.
"It is going to be very exciting this week to see him become the nominee of the republican party, it is something we've been working on for five years now," Bolling said. "I just hope I'll have the chance in November to see him become the next President of the United States of America."
It is clear that Romney appreciate's Bolling's friendship and loyalty. He often speaks highly of the Lt. Governor in campaign stops in Virginia and even went as far as to say that he hopes that Bolling will be the "next governor of Virginia". A statement he later pulled back when questions were raised about the heated primary Bolling faces with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
The commitment to Romney has already been helpful to Bolling, but if Romney wins it could a huge boon to the L.G. as he looks ahead to a difficult and potentially bruising nominating contest. While it is doubtful that a recently elected GOP president would wade into a contentious primary, just months after being elected, there is no doubt that Bolling could count on behind the scenes support from the man who he has been there for from the beginning.
Cuccinelli has worked on behalf of Romney after he captured the nomination, but did not endorse any candidate in the GOP primary.
Bolling, who is adding 2013 staff on a regular basis told me he's not all that worried about that race quite yet.
"Our focus is on Mitt Romney and the Romney/Ryan ticket," he said. "We don't even want to talk about 2013... We are going to take November 7th off and then maybe on November 8th we will start talking about 2013."
November 8th, really isn't that far away.
Extended clips from my conversation with Bolling can be found below: