Analysis: Is Cuccinelli still the GOP fave heading into 2013?
Could the swing of the pendulum evidenced in last week’s election results in the Old Dominion cause us to think a little differently about the conservative stalwart?
The same conventional wisdom that had Cuccinelli easily outdistancing Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling in the 2013 GOP convention also had Mitt Romney and George Allen looking good heading into November 2012, after all.
Cuccinelli is the darling of the right wing of the Republican Party, and thus should still be considered a heavy favorite to best Bolling in a convention vote until we hear a drumbeat of opinion that makes us think otherwise.
Polls taken earlier this year even seemed to indicate that Cuccinelli would have taken out Bolling in a head-to-head Republican primary if the party had made that move instead of going with a convention.
Those same polls, though, also have consistently had Bolling outpacing Cuccinelli in the race that counts – the general election in November 2013.
Barack Obama and Tim Kaine have since proven that 2008 was no aberration, as the sweep by the GOP ticket that included both Bolling and Cuccinelli and also Bob McDonnell in 2009 had seemed to assert.
It’s still not the case that we can now say that Virginia is solid blue. Even with the victories by Obama and Kaine, Virginia also sent back to Washington a congressional delegation with eight Republicans and three Democrats. The voters are clearly divided on where they want things to go, and can and do change course from election to election as they see fit to do so.
Does that serve to benefit Bolling, perhaps, given that he is perceived to be the more moderate, middle-of-the-road candidate of the two? Maybe, maybe not.
It’s interesting that it’s been widely assumed that Cuccinelli would benefit more from the move to nominate by convention. The convention does take a large portion of uncertainty out of the nominating equation, but it also serves to magnify the roles of party leaders in the final say.
Might the party leadership upset the apple cart and push the moderate Bolling as the man who can keep the keys to the governor’s mansion in GOP control?
I bet that they wish they’d made that same call back in 2001 when they pushed conservative Attorney General Mark Earley ahead of moderate Lt. Gov. John Hager for governor. The schism that resulted opened the door for Mark Warner to seize the victory that November, and changed the paradigm in Virginia politics at the same time.