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McDonnell at Work: Eyeing 2016, Did He Convince Bolling to Drop Gov Bid?


( – promoted by lowkell)

Governor McDonnell and Attorney General Cuccinelli hold each other in “maximum low regard,” as the saying goes in politics. But do the political math: Both men have a lot to gain, and nothing to lose, by joining  in 2013 even if it is a loveless marriage of convenience.  

by Paul Goldman

Those readers of this space, Blue Virginia, or viewing my commentary on local Richmond Television, know my take on the 2012 presidential election from the GOP side: McDonnell and Bolling were “all in” on Romney. If the GOP presidential standard-bearer lost, then it always seemed to me that Governor McDonnell would have his legacy riding on whether the Virginia GOP won the Governorship in 2013. McDonnell’s folks have been critical of me for this analysis and understandably so.

But while they are entitled to their own opinion, they aren’t entitled to their own facts. McDonnell bet his chips on a cabinet spot, which in turn would have made Bolling the MAN in Richmond. It didn’t turn out that way. McDonnell thus spent 33% of his first three years chasing the proverbial White Whale. To mix animal metaphors, he is now the lamest of lame ducks.

But this is also true: Governor McDonnell is now a player in 2016 at the presidential level. His year spent traveling the country and being on the VP final list helps big time in the arena. Moreover, Republicans finally realize the party can no longer take Virginia’s 13 electoral votes for granted. In addition, Governor McDonnell, on the national level, is an interesting political profile for a Republican. While Virginia Democrats would put him in the very conservative category, he is actually center right among Republicans on the national level, maybe even middle of the road depending on his stance on immigration (which is basically unknown at this time).

Point being: McDonnell has a legitimate chance to be the 2016 Republican presidential or vice-presidential nominee. He has earned a reputation for competence, not flash. Is he a long shot? Yes. But he could be a compromise choice for party activists and donors who don’t want to go the Southern religious conservatism of the Santorum wing, but think a Chris Christie is too Northern, Bobby Jindal too wonky, and Marco Rubio too rookie. There are other choices for sure, many in the crucial Midwest. But assume they don’t work out. McDonnell, the Notre Dame boy, ain’t chopped liver as they say in New Jersey.  

The Bigger Point Perhaps: McDonnell has to be thinking 2016. He isn’t going to challenge Warner in 2014. So if he doesn’t make some kind of play in 2016, what then, a re-run for Governor in 2017 or hang it up? A run for President in 2016 seems inevitable to me. What’s to lose?  


The First Mandatory Step Therefore: McDonnell has to keep the GOP in the Virginia Governor’s Mansion in 2013. This is the first presidential primary for McDonnell. It is all or nothing. He loses here, he is out there. Forget a legacy here, much less one in Iowa.  

If Virginia goes “all blue” on the political top line, then McDonnell fades on the national stage, especially if Christie is re-elected in New Jersey as would happen huge today according to the latest polls. McDonnell will then be seen not so much the winner, but as riding the 2009-2010 anti-Obama tide. Moreover, in 2016, the GOP is going to need someone who can bind up the party’s wounds and put a truly united front up against the Democrats. If McDonnell is seen as unable to do that in Virginia, why could he do it nationally?

So, again, the First Mandatory Test for McDonnell: Unite his own VA party and make sure when Spielberg does a Lincoln sequel, he has to deal with a GOP governor.

THE TRUTH ABOUT VIRGINIA POLITICS: Historically speaking, McDonnell’s “legacy” as Virginia Governor will be set in 2013. This was true for former Governor Robb, former Governor Allen and former Governor Warner, all of whom went to on to attempt to win their party’s presidential nominations in one way or another. If you check the polls, their images as successful governors were created largely in the gubernatorial campaigns to pick their successors.

Why? Their respective party candidates to succeed them all spent millions on television ads pumping their image. Why? Because, in turn, this helped those candidates get elected. That is to say: the better people felt about Robb, Allen and Warner, the better it was for candidates Baliles, Gilmore and Kaine. Common sense.

So Baliles, Gilmore and Kaine had reason to pump up their predecessors achievements. It was a mutually beneficial relationship for all concerned.

ENTER NOW Governor McDonnell, who can benefit from the same dynamic. Imagine how he will look to voters if the GOP gubernatorial candidate spends $5-$10 million praising McDonnell’s record. True, Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe could spend millions countering with anti-McDonnell ads. But this could prove to be a disaster. How does picking a fight with McD help McA?

THE POLITICAL NUGGET FOR THE DAY: A McDonnell/Cuccinelli alliance, even one paper thin, has real appeal to both men.

YOU GOT IT: McDonnell’s approval rating could be in the 70’s by next fall, just in time to make a crucial TV endorsement of the Virginia gubernatorial nominee.

Historically, no candidate for Governor has ever lost if he has the endorsement of the popular incumbent. Baliles and Gilmore won huge. Kaine’s victory, while much closer, was actually quite impressive given his underdog status for most of the contest.

SO NOW LET’S ANALYZE WHY BOLLING MAY BE DROPPING OUT. In terms of clout, McDonnell has NONE in helping Bolling win the 2013 GOP gubernatorial nod.  Attorney General Cuccinelli is a sure winner unless he blows it; there is nothing Bolling can do to stop the AG.

Does it help Governor McDonnell, either in the state or nationally, to back yet another loser? Of course not.

Moreover, helping Cuccinelli win the governorship can actually be a big plus for McDonnell on the national stage. The AG is very popular in that part of the national GOP constituency most leery of McDonnell. At the same time, McDonnell is very popular in that part of the Virginia GOP constituency most leery of Cuccinelli.

Cuccinelli is seen as the anti-McDonnell to many in the GOP: whereas McDonnell is cautious, modulating, Cuccinelli is seen as aggressive, intense. They are flip sides of the GOP coin. Oil and Water to the naked eye: but politicians to the core.

As the saying goes, this isn’t Cuccinelli’s first rodeo. He knows his biggest liability: the image Democrats will paint the AG as being too extreme to be Governor. The Democrats have some real live powder for that cannonade. Who provides Cuccinelli the political equivalent of Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-missile defense? A popular Governor Bob McDonnell.

Historically, incumbent Virginia Governor’s, especially those who want to stay popular, don’t attack the other party’s candidate for the job. Rather, they prefer to go “all in” praising the character of their party’s candidate for governor.

Moreover, the last thing McAuliffe will want is a popular GOP governor whacking him for 2,000 gross rating points and 10,000 pop-up ads across the Internet.

THE 2013 BOTTOM LINE: The best thing for Bob McDonnell is to settle the GOP gubernatorial fight early, to forge an alliance – admittedly one of convenience – with Ken Cuccinelli. Accordingly, the shrewd play for Governor McDonnell is to nudge Bolling out of the race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

SO TAKE THIS TO THE BANK; If Bolling is indeed dropping out of the race for governor, he did it only after asking McDonnell what he should do. And the governor said he understood why Bolling might make that decision.

Like Nixon and Gore, it may be that Cuccinelli will be either too proud, or too stubborn, to  accept the help he really doesn’t want. But if Bolling does drop out, then McDonnell has sent Cuccinelli a signal: I am not your enemy.

Cuccinelli could gloat. Or he could deal. We shall see.

  • ValerieInRke

    be his demise. McAuliffe will beat Cuccinelli and than where will McDonnell be. Bad move for the governor backing a loser for a second time.

  • FreeDem

    If next year goes badly …

  • JimWebster

    Paul, “maximum low regard” may be the adage in Richmond. Up in Washington, we prefer “minimum high regard.” A sharper knife.

  • kindler

    He’s like the fat kid on the playground who never gets picked to play on anyone’s team.  

  • Friends,

    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.

    I am writing to advise you that 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 you, 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. You helped make that possible, and for that I will always be grateful.

    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.

    I want to personally thank everyone who has done so much to support Jean Ann and me over the years, and I especially want to thank the thousands of people who had already pledged their support to my campaign for Governor. Your support means more to us than words can express. My greatest regret in suspending my campaign is the thought that I have let you 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 can tell you this, 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.

    Thanks again for your friendship, confidence and support. It is a privilege to serve you, and I look forward to seeing you soon in our travels across Virginia.


    Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling

  • It is disappointing that more mainstream Virginia Republicans are being driven out of leadership by the far-right. Virginia voters have repeatedly made clear that they prefer mainstream leaders building consensus instead of politicians pursuing their own ideological agenda. I intend on running a campaign that will unite Virginians across parties who share my focus putting job creation and common sense fiscal responsibility above divisive partisan crusades.

  • To: Interested Parties

    From: Democratic Party of Virginia Communications

    Memo: Cuccinelli-Akin-Mourdock Politics on the Ballot in 2013

    On November 6th, 2012 voters in Virginia and across the country chose results-oriented Democrats like President Obama and Tim Kaine to serve them in Washington. One of the key takeaways of last year’s elections was Americans’ widespread rejection the divisive agenda of politicians like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, who made national headlines and alienated voters in their states and across the country. The high profile losses of hyper-partisan Tea Party candidates are instructive as Virginia Republicans prepare to nominate Ken Cuccinelli for Governor in 2013.  While Cuccinelli was not on the 2012 ballot, his extreme and divisive ideology was and it lost by wide margins in Republican states.

    Their stories are similar: Akin, Mourdock and Cuccinelli all gained prominence because they feel that most elected Republicans are too moderate, especially on issues like women’s health. They all took power by activating a vocal minority within the Republican Party.

    And they have succeeded in driving more reasonable leaders and mainstream voters away from the GOP.

    In Indiana and Missouri, Cuccinelli’s allies each lost large polling leads after their voters came face to face with their radical agenda. They each lost moderates by over 30 points, independents by over 10 points, and women by double digits. Those results were a direct outcome of their desire to use government to impose a radical and divisive social agenda.  But for Cuccinelli, the election results are evidence that his party is actually too moderate.

    Cuccinelli’s worldview is far from Virginia’s reality. This year, 45% of Virginia’s diverse electorate identified as moderate, far surpassing both liberals and conservatives. The vast majority expressed mainstream views on issues like the economy and women’s health. Few would align themselves with Cuccinelli’s identity as an extreme ideological firebrand pursuing a divisive agenda.

    The more mainstream Republican Party of the past may have isolated these fringe extremists. Now, those extremists control the Republican Party and the people being isolated are the mainstream Republicans. Here in Virginia, the Cuccinelli wing of the Republican party has seized control over party infrastructure from more mainstream supporters of Governor Bob McDonnell and cleared the path for Cuccinelli’s nomination.

    That coups sets up yet another choice for voters between a results-oriented Democratic agenda and a radical, hyper-conservative partisan whose approach to government has more to do with advancing his personal ideology than making people’s lives better.


    In Indiana, Richard Mourdock lost most key voting groups. Mourdock lost moderates by 33-points, women by 12-points and independents by 11-points. [CNN Exit Poll]

    In Missouri, Todd Akin lost most key voting groups. Akin lost moderates by 42-points, women by 22-points, and independents by 12-points. [CNN Exit Poll]

    In Virginia, 45% of 2012 voters identified as moderate, substantially more than either conservatives or liberals. [CNN Exit Poll]

    Cuccinelli “the most overtly partisan attorney general in Virginia’s history.” According to the Washington Post, “KEN CUCCINELLI II, the most overtly partisan attorney general in Virginia’s history, has waged war on Obamacare, harassed climate-change scientists, sanctioned discrimination against homosexuals and embraced Arizona’s (now mostly gutted) immigration law. He has clung to his post after declaring his candidacy for governor, thereby parting ways with past attorneys general, Republicans and Democrats alike, who resigned to run rather than entangle the office in politics.” [Washington Post, 7/27/12]

    Cucinelli Criticized Romney for Being Too Moderate; Aligned Himself With Santorum. According to the Washington Times, “Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, who has led the state’s fight against President Obama’s health care law, warned Thursday that Republicans would be “effectively giving up the issue” if they tap Mitt Romney as their presidential nominee. The claim echoes the message of Rick Santorum, Mr. Romney’s chief opponent for the party’s nod, who has said the health care law the former Massachusetts governor signed is too close to Democrats’ national law to leave Mr. Romney any room to criticize it.” [Washington Times, 3/15/12]

    Cuccinelli Supporters Forced Virginia GOP to Change Governor Selection to Convention, Hoping to Reduce Moderate Republican Influence. Supporters of Ken Cuccinelli forced the state Republican Party to eliminate a primary for Governor and instead hold a convention where the most conservative Republicans decide. According to CBS 6 Analyst Bob Holsworth, “Most people believe that if the GOP switches to a convention, this would give an added advantage to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.He has fervent supporters among the Tea Party and social conservatives, and the thought is that [voting bloc] might be more likely to get on a bus from all over the state and come to Richmond on a Saturday morning.” [WTVR, 5/29/12; Washington Post, 5/24/12]

    Cuccinelli Used His Office as “blatantly partisan bully pulpit.” According to the Washington Post, “IN THREE YEARS as Virginia’s attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli II (R) has demeaned his office by using it as a blatantly partisan bully pulpit to attack Obamacare, illegal immigrants, homosexuals and climate-change scientists. Now he has managed to bully Virginia’s Board of Health into a stance – unprecedented in state history – that could force most of the commonwealth’s 20 or so abortion clinics to close. Mr. Cuccinelli, who was a champion of the anti-abortion movement as a legislator, has clung to his current office even as he runs for governor. In doing so, he ignores the example of former Virginia attorneys general of both parties who resigned to run rather than politicize the office. In the Cuccinelli worldview, rendering dispassionate legal advice takes a back seat to agenda-pushing.” [Washington Post, 9/20/12]

    Cuccinelli Running Against “Mainstream.” According to Washington Post guest columnist Peter Galuszka, “Cuccinelli, who has gained national attention for his strong positions against climate change, homosexuals and abortion, had been riding the Tea Party wave of distrust and resentment of government and mainstream politicians.” [Washington Post, 11/7/12]

    The New Republic: Akin, Mourdock Represent “Increasingly Common” Position of Republicans on Choice. According to the New Republic’s Amy Sullivan, “Let’s get one thing straight. GOP Senate candidates Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin did not lose their races on Tuesday because they are extreme right-wingers whose opposition to abortion, even in the case of women who become pregnant as a result of being raped, is considered beyond the pale. Nor did they lose because of verbal gaffes about rape-although Akin’s creative understanding of the female reproductive system should have been enough to disqualify him for a seat in the U.S. Senate, or in freshman biology. No, Mourdock and Akin lost because they each made the mistake of actually trying to explain an increasingly common position by Republican officer-holders, including Paul Ryan.” [New Republic, 11/7/12]

  • See here. I’m highly skeptical of this, not sure who their sources are, but I guess we’ll see…

  • I am honored and proud to have served with the Lieutenant Governor over the last decade, in the State Senate, as running mates for statewide office and as leaders of Virginia State Government.

    Throughout this race, I have kept to the premise that Bill and I are allies in governance, even if temporary competitors in politics. Bill Bolling is a good man – a true public servant who has worked hard throughout his career to make Virginia a better place to live and raise our families. I cannot speak highly enough of his service.

    I will honor the Lt. Governor’s service by campaigning for Governor as we both pledged to govern when we were sworn in, in 2010. I will continue the challenging work of advancing first principles in Virginia’s policy arena by creating an environment for maximizing job creation, preserving life, liberty and opportunity, and working to make Virginia a beacon of hope and prosperity in these tough economic times.

  • Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has spent his career in politics attacking women’s rights, working to restrict access to essential reproductive health care, and putting his political ideology before the lives of Virginia women. Make no mistake: if elected governor, Ken Cuccinelli will continue the war on women in Virginia – this time from the highest office in the Commonwealth.

    We cannot and will not allow this to happen. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia will spend the next eleven months making sure that every Virginian knows exactly what’s at stake in this election, and exactly how Cuccinelli’s anti-choice policies will hurt her and her family.

  • totallynext

    link…time to get this party started.