Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling suspended his campaign for governor this morning, seemingly guaranteeing that the GOP nominee will be Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
It was just two weeks ago that Bolling sent an email to supporters saying, "I am running for Governor because I firmly believe that I am the only Republican candidate who can actually defeat the Democrats and win next November. Polling has shown that I can defeat Terry McAuliffe, the likely Democrat nominee, while McAuliffe will defeat Ken Cuccinelli."
Bolling (whose full statement is below the fold) says he determined that he could not win in a convention format and did not want to spend the time, effort and money to challenge Cuccinelli prior to the convention.
The party originally planned to hold a primary election to choose its nominee, but this year's members of the State Central Committee voted to rescind that decision in favor of a convention.
What does Bolling's decision say about the future of the GOP in Virginia? Is he perhaps suspending his campaign in the hope that, come convention time, delegates will decide to draft a moderate rather than accept the extremely conservative Cuccinelli?
We'll be looking for answers to those questions, and will be updating this Daily Press story throughout the day.
Bolling's full statement follows:
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.