âBill Bolling followed the rules and expected to be handed the Republican gubernatorial nomination—but party politics are not what they used to be.
You really have to pity Bill Bolling. Here’s a guy who did everything right: He worked his way methodically up the ranks of Virginia’s Republican party, from member (and ultimately chairman) of the Hanover County Board of Supervisors to a decade-long stint in the State Senate to his current position as Lieutenant Governor. In the normal, orderly way of doing things (this is, after all, the GOP), the rest of the Republican establishment would have stepped aside and handed him the 2013 gubernatorial nomination on a silver platter (as Bolling himself did for Bob McDonnell in 2009).
Unfortunately for Bolling, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is not a normal and orderly kind of guy. Unwilling to cool his jets for another four years, the Cooch decided to declare for governor this year, and immediately became the party favorite (a recent Quinnipiac University poll had him leading Bolling among Republican voters by an eye-popping 51-to-15 percent margin).
Still, Bolling had a few cards left up his sleeve, including some high-profile endorsements (Governor McDonnell and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor among them), and the fact that the GOP’s State Central Committee (SCC) had already decided to hold a primary, as opposed to a nominating convention, before Cuccinelli even entered the race. This was crucial for Bolling, because a primary would be open to all Virginia voters, regardless of party, while a convention would be dominated by Cooch-friendly conservative activists.
Well, as of this writing, it seems that one of Bolling’s most important cards has been stolen. And weirder still, the thief is Libertarian hero and perpetual presidential candidate Ron Paul.
O.K., not Ron Paul himself, but various and sundry members of his Love Revolution (yes, they really call it that).
Here’s how it all went down: In October 2011, the SCC voted to hold a primary for all three statewide offices in 2013. Bolling had aggressively lobbied for this early decision, reasoning that it would both allow him more time to prepare his campaign and dissuade more conservative candidates from entering the race.
But as it turned out, his plan was too clever by half. Not only did Cuccinelli enter the race, but annoyed Tea Partiers and Ron Paul supporters worked overtime to get new members on the State Central Committee before the election.
Paul’s supporters have become very good at this sort of thing, and are currently wreaking havoc at Republican presidential caucuses across the land, snatching an impressive number of delegates from Mitt Romney, the presumptive nominee. So, too, did they manage to tilt the balance of the committee to the right, and ultimately succeeded in reversing the decision to hold a primary in favor of a convention.
This is, obviously, terrible news for Bolling. Although he put on a happy face and released an upbeat statement (“I have run and won in conventions before and I will do so again in 2013”), we can only imagine that he’s fervently hoping that the courts step in and declare the unprecedented reversal invalid.
But if they don’t, the Old Dominion will likely witness the most entertaining race for Governor in a generation: Ken Cuccinelli vs. Terry McAuliffe.
And while we might feel bad for boring ol’ Bill Bolling, we have to admit that the idea of the Cooch facing off against the Macker makes us lightheaded with joy. Sorry, Bill—in the eternal battle of entertainment against fairness, political bloodsport wins every time.