Story by Chris Graham
Bill Bolling hitched his horse to the Mitt Romney presidential wagon back in the summer. And he’s enjoying the ride.
“I endorsed Gov. Romney back in July. I felt then based on three meetings with him that he was our best candidate and the right guy for the job. I’ve gotten to know Mitt Romney and Ann Romney and their family very well over the course of the last six months, and I am more convinced than ever that I made the right decision,” Lt. Gov. Bolling said in an interview for this week’s “New Dominion Show.”
“I am more convinced than ever that Mitt Romney is our best candidate. I think he’s our most electable candidate. And I think he’s the best candidate to lead our country into the future,” said Bolling, a Republican who is the chair of Romney’s Virginia campaign.
Bolling is also a presumed candidate for the 2009 Virginia Republican Party gubernatorial nomination – and as such his foray into presidential-level organizing could be seen as a way to test the waters for what could be to come in ’09. Organizationally, at least, things seem to be looking good for the Bolling operation. Romney was the first GOP presidential contender to get his petitions for ballot access in to the State Board of Elections and approved.
“Most of the other campaigns went right down to the wire. We were able to file our petitions a couple of weeks before the deadline. A lot of folks were out there working real hard to help us get about 16,000 petition signatures for Romney in Virginia,” Bolling said in the radio-show interview.
Looking ahead to the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary that are on the immediate horizon in the 2008 presidential race, Bolling said things are looking good for Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.
“Gov. Romney is continuing to lead the polls in places like New Hampshire and Michigan and Nevada and Wyoming. He’s pulled even in some polls in South Carolina, gaining ground in Florida, closing the gap in the national polls,” Bolling said.
“The first test is going to be Iowa – and that’s a race that we would certainly like to win, at least finish a strong second in,” Bolling said.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has made up some ground in Iowa in recent days, but Bolling thinks that Huckabee’s good standing in the polls could end up putting him more and more in the media glare in a way that could hurt him down the road.
“You know, Mike Huckabee for a long time was under the radar screen, and now that he’s started making some movement in the polls, his campaign is starting to get the same kind of scrutiny that some of the other campaigns have gotten for a long period of time,” Bolling said.
“I think we’re now starting to see him peak – even in Iowa, where he had opened up a little bit of a lead over Gov. Romney, there was a poll out (last week) that shows that they’re dead-even again in Iowa,” Bolling said.
“We’d like to win Iowa, at least have a strong second in Iowa,” Bolling said. “I think that will give us the momentum we need to win in New Hampshire, win in Michigan, win in Nevada, win in Wyoming – and that, I think, will give us the momentum we need to be very competitive in places like South Carolina, Florida, leading up to Super Tuesday.”
By the time the campaign gets to Virginia for its Feb. 12 primaries, Bolling sees the GOP field being down to two or three candidates.
“I think probably the two leading candidates continue to be Gov. Romney and Mayor Giuliani. It’s possible that Gov. Huckabee can get in there, but I still think he’s got some work to do,” Bolling said.