Cuccinelli and McAuliffe released statements praising Bolling — and linking themselves to him. Cuccinelli’s referred to the “McDonnell, Bolling, Cuccinelli team.” McAuliffe, who has sought to position himself as a middle-of-the-road candidate, used the word “mainstream” four times in his three-paragraph statement to describe his views or Bolling’s.
Bolling’s threatened independent run always had doubters. A longtime party loyalist with a mild manner, he made for an unlikely rebel. Even when he started stepping out as an “independent voice,” many observers thought he was just sticking it to the party that had jilted him.
Some naysayers became believers as the public positions the former Hanover County supervisor and state senator took became increasingly daring. His first big announcement, against lifting the ban on uranium mining, put him out in front of McDonnell, who has yet to take a position; but he did so with the support of Southside Republicans. As time went on, Bolling bucked the governor’s comments about arming teachers, opposed the GOP’s Senate redistricting plan and supported expanding Medicaid.
Bolling’s critics said he was too passive, letting McDonnell run for the nomination unopposed four years ago and allowing Cuccinelli to outmaneuver him in the convention switch. Bolling hung on for a few months after that. He spent that time not plotting a convention upset, but hoping Mitt Romney would win the presidency and pick McDonnell for a Cabinet position. That would have elevated Bolling and given him the advantage of incumbency. But Romney lost.
Bolling went away March 5 for a week-long vacation in the Bahamas, where he and his wife made their final decision. He was said to have been seeking donations until he boarded the plane. A strategist said the financial hurdles were just too daunting in a race that would require at least $10 million to $15 million.
“You knew where the first few million were coming from, but 3 or 5 million doesn’t get you what you need,” said the strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss internal deliberations.
Bolling’s campaign sent word of his decision late Tuesday morning, while he was on his way back from the Bahamas. That was two days before his self-imposed Thursday deadline, which he had announced last month.
“I don’t think anybody’s been this precise in choosing the date since LeBron James did the ESPN program announcing he was going to ditch Cleveland for Miami,” said one GOP Capitol insider. “Now they canceled the show.
Ben Pershing contributed to this report.