He ended his campaign for governor Wednesday, but Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling knew last summer that he faced an uphill fight winning the Republican gubernatorial nomination in a state convention.
He recognized the convention process favored his Republican rival, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
But Bolling vowed to press on, saying at the time that he would restructure his campaign to prepare for a convention. He also figured that the presidential election had the potential to change his political fortunes.
Bolling served as Virginia state chairman of Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, and Gov. Bob McDonnell was a visible surrogate for Romney throughout the fall campaign. There was much speculation during the campaign that, if Romney won, McDonnell could land a Cabinet position and vacate the governor’s office with a year remaining on his term. That would have elevated Bolling to the top job and enabled him to campaign for election as an incumbent.
“That could have significantly changed the political landscape in the state,” Bolling said in an interview Wednesday. “But that didn’t go the way we wanted it to. And, at the end of the day, I just thought it would have been hard to have gotten over the top at this convention and it would have been just an incredibly divisive process in the meantime.”
Bolling held a news conference today at the state Capitol to further discuss his decision to leave the Republican nomination fight. He reiterated many of the points he made Wednesday, again maintaining that the GOP’s switch to a convention sent a message that “our party was a party of exclusion, not a party of inclusion.”
“If we want to grow our party over time, we need to involve more people in our party with more diverse views, as opposed to fewer people with more myopic views, and I feel we would grow our party by having a primary as opposed to a convention,” Bolling said.
State Republican Party Chairman Pat Mullins today took issue with some of the comments Bolling has made since announcing his exit from the GOP nominating contest.
“I am disappointed by Lt. Governor Bolling’s remarks over the past 48 hours,” Mullins said in an email statement issued this afternoon. “Lt. Governor Bolling has a stellar record of public service, and has long been a strong voice for the conservative cause. Nowhere in his statements does he mention a policy disagreement with the Attorney General.
“The proper venue for challenging a fellow Republican is during a nomination contest. Lt. Governor Bolling chose to suspend his campaign. I hope he will take his own words to heart and work to bring our Party together.”
Bolling won a primary to win his first nomination for lieutenant governor in 2005. But Republicans held a convention in 2009 to nominate McDonnell, Bolling and Cuccinelli, who went on to win convincing general election victories.
Bolling said a convention fight for the gubernatorial nomination would have required “hand-to-hand combat” for delegate votes, would have left the party too divided, and likely would have left him without a path to victory.
“I decided that I just didn’t want to be part of a process that that could create those types off deep divisions within the party when, in my heart, I just didn’t think we had a realistic chance of winning when we got to the convention next May,” he said.
Bolling again said that he had no plans to run for governor as an independent, but didn’t entirely rule out the possibility. When asked about speculation that he lacked the fire for a political fight, Bolling acknowledged that he has lost some of his enthusiasm for the more partisan aspects of politics.
“My passion for public service today is stronger than it’s ever been,” he said. “But as I’ve said earlier, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve lost a little bit of my passion for some aspects of the partisan political process over the years.
“Politics today is a lot more challenging than it was when I got involved. It’s a lot more ideologically driven today. It’s a lot more hyper-partisan today. Frankly, in many respects, it’s a lot more mean-spirited today than it has been over the years. I think that’s a tremendous challenge for the process. So it’s fair to say that I’ve lost a little bit of my passion for many aspects of the political process. That’s fair to say. But I haven’t lost an ounce of my passion for public service.”
– Michael Sluss