Why did Bolling pull back?

Story by Chris Graham
newdominion@ntelos.net

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling stressed that his decision to stay out of the 2009 governor’s race had nothing to do with trying to avoid a pitched battle with Attorney General Bob McDonnell.

But you have to wonder if that wasn’t a big reason that the Republican is essentially ceding the nomination to his intraparty rival.

“One of the kind of indirect benefits of this decision is it does enable our party to avoid a battle between myself and Attorney General McDonnell. I would stress that that wasn’t the reason for the decision, but it is one of the benefits of the decision. I think that most Republicans across the state like me, and they like Bob McDonnell, and the last thing that any of them wanted to have to do was pick sides between the two of us,” Bolling said in a conference call with reporters this afternoon.

Bolling had confirmed earlier today the news that he will not seek the Republican Party gubernatorial nomination in 2009 in favor of making a run at a second term as lieutenant governor. The move all but hands the gubernatorial nomination to McDonnell, who like Bolling was elected to his statewide office in 2005.

The man that McDonnell defeated for the AG post in ’05, Bath County Sen. Creigh Deeds, has already announced his intention to run for the Democratic Party gubernatorial nomination. House Democratic Caucus chair Brian Moran has formed an exploratory committee for a possible nomination run.

And so it is that the 2009 Virginia governor’s race is beginning to resemble the 2008 race for the White House. The Republicans have a presumptive nominee in place, and the Democrats have a two-candidate fight to look forward to.

“This enables us to move forward with a coordinated ticket in 2009, I believe a very strong ticket in 2009,” Bolling said today. “And I think at the end of the day it will because of that enhance our chances of success in 2009 – and also in 2008. Because frankly one of my big concerns about this fall’s campaigns was the potential for our party to have its attention taken away from the campaigns in 2008 if we entered into some contest about the campaigns of 2009. So by getting this decision out there early, I think it allows us to unite behind our candidates in 2008, to keep our focus firmly fixed on 2008, and also know that we have a coordinated ticket moving forward in 2009.”
McDonnell issued a statement saying many of the same things.

“Bill and I have known each other for a long time. We have traveled the Commonwealth together as running mates, and as office holders. We speak regularly on everything from our families to state policy. Bill is someone whose opinion I place in the highest regard. We are friends who share the same values, and the same commitment to solving problems, making government work better, and improving quality of life for all our citizens,” McDonnell said in the statement, released this afternoon.

“The Republican Party will move into the 2009 statewide elections united. As I begin to prepare for my campaign for governor, I look forward to running next year with Bill as a ticket. We will remain strong partners in the effort to improve opportunity, freedom and justice for the people of Virginia. I have no doubt that, together, we will unite our party, we will unite our Commonwealth, and we will create a safer, stronger, more prosperous Virginia,” McDonnell said.

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