Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling announced today that he is ending his bid for the Virginia governorship, paving the way for state attorney general Ken Cuccinelli to be the Republican nominee in next year's race.
Bolling cited a change in the state GOP's nominating procedure as the reason for his withdrawal from the race; the party will choose its nominee at a convention in May, not a primary, leading Bolling to believe he faced an uphill battle.
"I was confident in my ability to win our party's nomination for Governor in a statewide primary election," Bolling said today. "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. ... 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."
Bolling, who was a major supporter of Mitt Romney and had the endorsement of popular Gov. Bob McDonnell, R-Va., has been critical of the more conservative Cuccinelli, suggesting his "extreme" brand of conservatism is a recipe for GOP failure next November.
In a statement to supporters sent two weeks ago, Bolling wrote, "voters will not support candidates who are viewed as being too extreme for Virginia."
"If we nominate these kinds of candidates we will lose in November of 2013 and turn the Governor's office over to the Democrats," Bolling added.
Cuccinelli is a conservative firebrand who brought suit against President Obama's health care law and supported Arizona's immigration law in its Supreme Court case. He has also promoted controversial issues on gay rights, abortion, and environmental policies.
Bolling's departure from the high-profile race sets up a battle between Cuccinelli and the likely Democratic nominee, former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe, who also helped run Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and President Bill Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign, is making his second attempt at the Virginia governorship. He ran in the Democratic primary in 2009 and lost to eventual nominee Creigh Deeds who, in turn, lost to McDonnell.