Analyst: Cuccinelli lead in GOP race no surprise

It shouldn’t be a surprise to see Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli with a solid early lead in the polls looking at the 2013 Republican gubernatorial nomination race.

The attorney general’s office “provides more of an outlet for somebody who wants to move up and provides a lot of opportunities to get in the news, the newspaper, TV, that sort of thing,” said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

And Cuccinelli has taken advantage of the spotlight afforded his office – with his highly publicized swipes at the Obama administration over health-care reform and repeated efforts to raise issue with a former UVa. researcher over global warming endearing him to the Republican base.

There’s still a lot of time between now and mid-2013 when Republicans will decide on a nominee, but Kondik said it’s clear that Cuccinelli should be the early favorite in his race with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling for the nomination.

That said, the time factor is an important one to keep in mind. A lot can happen in politics in a short time, and between now and 2013 there will be both a hotly contested U.S. Senate race likely involving political heavyweights Tim Kaine and George Allen and of course the 2012 presidential race.

What happens in the presidential race in particular can impact the GOP race in 2013, Kondik said. For example, the national party could nominate a strong conservative who ends up flopping on the big stage, making a strong conservative like Cuccinelli less appealing to Virginia Republicans in 2013.

As to the possibility that the battle between Cuccinelli and Bolling could split the party and open the door for the wounded Virginia Democratic Party to make a comeback in 2013, “I think the party will get behind its eventual nominee,” said Kondik, adding that who Virginia Democrats nominate to be their standard-bearer will play a key role itself.

Democrats in Virginia in general “don’t have an extremely deep bench” for candidates for governor or the other statewide offices, Kondik said.

“Behind Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of obivous statewide candidates,” Kondik said.


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