by Paul Goldman
Boyd Marcus, the Karl Rove to LG Bill Bolling, is one smart political guy. But if you believe the latest Public Policy Polling survey of GOP primary voters next year, there is nothing even Boyd can do to help his guy beat Kenny C. Sure, you can point to fact the AG only leads 44%-25%, which is below the magic 50% mark. You can also point to the fact that the LG isn’t as well known as Kenny C., meaning his support can theoretically grow as his name ID increases. Also, Bolling is well liked among Republicans, and he figures to make more friends casting the tie-breaking votes on key GOP legislation in the Senate next year.
All this is true and lots more, but then comes what Boyd knows is even more true: his success in GOP politics has come by running his candidates to the right of their opponents. Boyd wins because he knows that being the guy on the left in the race – that is to say the “less” conservative candidate – is a loser’s game in the GOP. Boyd has buried a lot of conservative bodies in his day by saying they are not anti-tax, anti-spending, anti-abortion, anti-whatever enough. They scream, but those direct flyers don’t lie right?
Boyd’s one famous parlay into going left was in 1994, when he ran Jim Miller’s campaign for the GOP Senate nomination against Ollie North. Miller got beat badly, then turned around two years later and ran as the conservative alternative to John Warner — back to the usual Boyd MO, in other words.
The fact is, Boyd has done a heck of a job for Bolling, and has gotten him within a hair of a trip to the Super Bowl of VA politics. Bolling couldn’t have done it by Bowling Alone.
But the Boyd Marcus MO of “student body right” as close to the sideline as possible isn’t a play one can run against the AG.
No matter how far you go to the right – except, perhaps, on certain NOVA issues – you are still to the political left of Kenny C.
So what is a loyal LG to do?
If Bolling’s man Romney gets nominated, then he could lobby to have Governor McD selected as VP. Then, if the GOP wins, Bolling would become Governor by operation law. Would that stop KC from running for Governor? Only if Cuccinelli were thinking correctly.
Naturally, if Mitt isn’t the nominee, but if the GOP wins, then Bolling can hope the new President makes McDonnell an offer the Governor can’t refuse. Or, the new President might – heaven help us – make KC the Attorney General of the United States. (Of course, what President in his right mind would do that to himself? KC is not a team player, by his own admission.)
SO: Short of McDonnell getting to be the next VP, and not counting some unexpected event which is always possible, there isn’t a lot Boyd Marcus can find in his bag of tricks right now. Unless the LG comes out for abolishing state government, then he can’t get to the right of KC without just about thing else.
Right now then, Boyd has to hunker down and hope lightning strikes real soon. Otherwise, Bolling must decide whether to give up the LG job for a very long shot, indeed likely no shot, of beating Cuccinelli for the 2013 GOP nod.
It would be different if Bolling was trailing Cuccinelli, but if he had the more committed constituency, a la Henry Howell’s big upset in the 1977 Democratic gubernatorial primary. Or different as in 1989, when Boyd helped engineer the upset win of Marshall Coleman in the GOP primary over big favorite Paul Trible. But in that case, Trible’s lead was a mile wide and an inch deep; he went down on the abortion issue mostly, as Coleman went from pr-choice to hard right per the Marcus MO. Brilliant job though, and Boyd could do it again if he had material.
But right now, KC has pitched his tent right on the right-side sideline. At this point, there is no room for Bill Bolling, except either out of bounds or to the left.
So it is going to be a winter of discontent at the Marcus posse, as they struggle like Houdini to get out of the straightjacket they find themselves in.
Of course, at 44%, the AG can’t afford but too many slip ups. That remains Boyd’s best hope – errors by Cuccinelli. Big ones, if they are to change the dynamic currently in place.
My prediction: If nothing much changes over the next year as regards the LG’s race, look for Bolling to cut a deal with Cuccinelli, a la the one he did with McDonnell. Bill Bolling presides over the State Senate for another four years? It could very well happen.