By Paul Goldman
In opining on the 2013 GOP gubernatorial primary, UVA Professor Larry Sabato told the Richmond Times Dispatch the contest is “going to be vicious.” Sabato wasn’t suggesting that Sid Vicious, the Hall of Fame rocker with the Sex Pistols, would join the race — the English punker died many years ago from a heroin overdose. There are, as the Professor concedes, different levels of “vicious.” But we get his drift: the 2013 GOP contest is going to be rough.
Which raises the question: Why is Sabato so sure it is going to be “vicious”?
Larry was, in my view, expressing the conventional wisdom around the Washington Beltway and among Virginia insiders. They are assuming the GOP contest between LG Bill “Bolling Alone” and Ken “Have Brief, Will Travel” Cuccinelli is going to be vicious because “it has to be if Ken Cuccinelli is running because he is…well…one vicious guy as we have been saying for years now.”
That is to say: Cuccinelli is the Sid Vicious of Virginia Politics as the establishment sees it.
But so far, the GOP GUV contest is, well — a farce. The big “news” is that Mr. Tareq Salahi, whose claim to fame in Virginia politics is having been forced off the Tourism Board by then Governor Tim Kaine after being caught “crashing” a White House dinner party in 2009.
The so called “mainstream media” – which claim to have more credibility than the blogs – apparently believe their continued coverage of this “Salahi for Governor” farce campaign proves why they should be taken seriously. Now that’s laughable.
Like I say: So far, the GOP contest, and the press coverage, is not vicious, it’s a farce.
But Larry and the insiders say: Don’t worry, it is going to get “vicious.”
So again I ask: Why?
As the good Professor concedes, Mr. Cuccinelli is the heavy favorite right now based on the polls. This may be overstating Cuccinelli’s strength, but the AG is the guy to beat.
Is it in Cuccinelli’s interest to make the race “vicious”? No.
Would anyone care if Mr. Salahi tried to make it “vicious”? Only the mainstream media (the ones who claim to be credible) perhaps.
So that leaves Bill Bolling. Last I checked, he was the head of the Romney for President campaign in Virginia. This means two things.
First, if Romney gets elected President, then we can presume he will offer Governor McDonnell a cabinet post. And we can further presume that Mr. McDonnell will accept. Meaning: Bill Bolling would become Governor sometime in early 2013.
Further meaning: What are the chances Ken Cuccinelli will run to unseat a sitting Republican Governor? If Cuccinelli studies history, he will know this is the surest way to lose an election, because even if you win, the split in your party has always been deadly in other states like Virginia.
In that case, I don’t think Cuccinelli runs; he is too smart a guy with too promising a future inside the GOP. In this scenario, it will be in Cuccinelli’s and Governor Bolling’s interest to agree to run on the same ticket.
The only problem with this scenario is a big one: it’s not going to happen. In fact, pigs will sooner fly than Romney does in Air Force One.
Thus, Bolling and McDonnell are going to have the VA GOP spend the next 6 months wasting huge amounts of time and effort on a wild goose chase. As we have written in this space, Virginia Republicans don’t much like Romney and are only going to back him as the Anybody But Obama (ABO) candidate.
So when Romney loses, why would they turn to Bolling and a lame duck Governor? Besides, Cuccinelli’s key base supporters are not getting much from McDonnell and will get ZERO from a Governor Bolling.
Take it to the bank: If Romney loses, Bolling will be lucky to get renominated for LG.
In my view, Cuccinelli has brilliantly put himself in the catbird seat. If Romney wins and elevates McDonnell, then the AG will step aside for the LG, reclaim the GOP nomination for AG (with Governor Bolling’s help} and live to fight another day.
If Romney loses, then Cuccinelli gets the Governor’s nomination with no sweat.
But you say: What if Romney wins and doesn’t offer McDonnell a cabinet post?
My response: This isn’t going to happen. Tim Kaine would have taken an Obama cabinet post but for a Republican LG named Bill Bolling. So McDonnell doesn’t have that problem.
Bottom line: Right now, there is no logical reason to assume the GOP primary will be “vicious.”
Unless Larry has inside information that Sid Vicious, the world-champion wrestler from TV fame, is going to run for the Virginia Republican nomination and ask the GOP to settle it by two out of three falls, no-holds-barred.
Now that would be “vicious.” This won’t be.