The biggest challenge an Independent candidate faces is fundraising. You can have a winning message, but if you don’t have the resources to effectively communicate that message to voters you cannot win. . . . Based on my discussions with key donors over the past three weeks, I was confident I could raise enough money to run a competitive campaign, but I was not confident I could raise enough money to run a winning campaign.”
He also cited his reluctance to “sever” ties with the GOP. And he decided politics really isn’t for him these days:
While I still value public service a great deal, the truth is that I just don’t find the political process to be as enjoyable as I once did. Because of this, I decided that the time has come for me to step away from elected office and look for other ways to serve Virginia.
If this sounds a little flaky, it is. All of these factors were certainly known or knowable before he dangled out the prospect of a run two weeks ago. Bolling perhaps liked the idea of an independent run more than the reality of one, while donors unsettled by prospective GOP nominee Ken Cuccinelli liked the idea of an alternative more than they liked Bolling.
As I have written, both Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe, on the Democratic side, have high negatives and assorted vulnerabilities. The race in many ways is about whether they can shed their national image (Cuccinelli as a brash ideologue, McAuliffe as an unprincipled Democratic money man) long enough to convince purple state voters they will govern soberly in the mode of previous popular governors.
Cuccinelli supporters will think Bolling’s decision is a good break for their man. Perhaps, but Cuccinelli’s biggest challenge is Cuccinelli. He better snap out of his infatuation with a higher national profile, define a more agreeable persona and come up with a positive agenda that attracts voters outside the hardcore right wing base. If not, the Democratic attack ad machine will level him.
UPDATE: The Republican Governors Association put out a statement focusing on McAuliffe’s negatives: “Ken Cuccinelli is an experienced, policy-driven candidate, who will make job creation his top priority and will provide a clear vision and specific solutions for the challenges facing the Commonwealth. Meanwhile, former DNC Chairman and Clinton fundraiser Terry McAuliffe showed no interest in Virginia until running a failed campaign for governor four years ago, and his current campaign has drawn more major headlines for misrepresenting Virginia issues than any positive policy ideas of his own.”
Cuccinelli’s statement hinted at a positive agenda: “In the months ahead, there will be a clear contrast between Terry McAuliffe — a career Washington Insider and Democrat fundraiser — and myself. I agree with the Lt. Governor that we need a Governor who is focused on solving the problems we face like implementing a comprehensive transportation plan that addresses our long-term needs, reforming our tax code in a responsible and balanced way that encourages economic growth, strengthening our educational system for every student, creating good jobs here in Virginia and fighting to protect the ones we already have.” He’ll need to put some meat on those bones and specifically tell voters if he intends to repeal the just-passed transportation bill that he opposed.