Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) has made no secret of his support for Mitt Romney the GOP presidential nomination contest. But Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has said very little about the race, except that he thinks a governor would make the best president.
That doesn’t mean he hasn’t met with a good number of candidates — or potential ones.
McDonnell’s job approval ratings make him one of the most popular governors in the nation. He has not said when — or if — he would endorse, but with an eye toward the vice presidential spot on his party’s ticket it would make sense to stay out of the contest as long as possible. McDonnell supported former senator Fred Thompson in 2008.
McDonnell has spoken to former governors Romney of Massachusetts and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota numerous times, including last week. In February, McDonnell dined with Pawlenty in Richmond, raising more
than a few eyebrows.
He has also spoken or met with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich several times. Romney, Pawlenty and Gingrich all came to Virginia to help McDonnell during his 2009 gubernatorial campaign.
Most likely those recent conversations involved a good bit of politics, presidential and otherwise.
Some of the contacts took place longer ago. He met with former Utah governor Jon Huntsman years ago, spoke to former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain once in the past year and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum sometime in the past.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has not said whether he is running, but he and McDonnell talk frequently, as fellow governors and as chairman and vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association. He also just met with former ambassador John Bolton, who is mulling a presidential bid. He has never talked to Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.)
“I’m sure all the candidates would like to have the governor’s support,’’ Bolling said.
Bolling, who chaired Romney’s campaign in Virginia in 2008, is working to put together a leadership team for Romney and encouraging his volunteers across the state — dubbed the Bolling Brigade — to help him.
Romney had a pair of fundraisers in Northern Virginia this week and has another scheduled for Virginia Beach later this month.
“I just think Romney is the best candidate to carry our party’s banner in the 2012 elections,’’ Bolling said. “I think he’s the best person to lead the nation in trying to find solutions to some of these serious challenges that we face. And I think he’s the only Republican candidate that has a really good chance of beating President Obama.”
The only other prominent Republican in Virginia who has endorsed in the presidential race so far is former attorney general Jerry Kilgore, who is supporting Pawlenty.
Former governor and senator George Allen said he won’t endorse in the presidential race. House Speaker Bill Howell, who supported former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in 2008, said an endorsement is not a priority for him right now. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli won’t endorse in any 2012 elections until after this November’s legislative race are over.