Last week I received an email from our esteemed Lt. Governor, Bill Bolling, inquiring as to my feelings regarding his possible bid for Governor as an “Independent Republican.” A tough question for me and many others who have worked hard for the Republican Party over the years. But many of us are also quite saddened by what we’ve come of what was once a institution. The leadership of the state party has atrophied and proven itself incompetent (especially over the past few election cycles) to win elections in the 21st century. And so unfortunately I must encourage Bolling to mount an independent bid. And I believe his run can be successful, provided he overcomes a few obstacles concerning fundraising, organization and messaging.
Bolling should sit back until the other two candidates are officially nominated (sometime in June); he won’t have to spend money because his campaign will be able to live off the free publicity that will come with the novelty of his independent bid. So he should be able to spend a significant amount of time – March thru June – raising money, from wherever he can get it. Recent reports suggest he wouldn’t have a problem because many prominent conservative and Republican businessmen and donors clamoring for an alternative in the gubernatorial race. At a recent closed door meeting of conservative donors, two prominent business leaders confronted the presumptive Republican nominee over his extremist image and openly questioned his electability.
Conventional wisdom suggests that Bolling would start an independent bid behind the eight ball, with most committed politicos around the state presumably backing the nominees of the two major parties. That isn’t the case though. The concern many prominent conservative business leaders share over Cuccinelli is also shared by many prominent Republican activists from across the state. Ever since the Attorney General declared his intention to run for Governor two years ago he’s managed to alienate and antagonize large swaths of his own party. Indeed part of the reason Bolling is considering an independent bid is because of the encouragement he’s receiving from ordinary Republicans, from all over the ideological spectrum.
The state Republican Party cannot continue playing only to its base. Last November was embarrassing for Republicans here in the Commonwealth, we lost both a winnable Senate race and the Presidential race. And the reasons are pretty clear – we still think this is 1980 and we believe every election can be won if only we can reassemble that 1980 coalition. That attitude has caused our message to grow stale and stagnant and prevents us from reaching out to young people and other growing constituencies.
And frankly Ken Cuccinelli and his campaign team don’t understand that. Instead of devoting his resources and time to campaigning here in Virginia he’s out and about promoting a controversial book on constitutional law, while his hapless campaign manager (fresh off an unsuccessful stint as Executive Director of the state GOP) churns out press releases filled with ad hominem attacks targeted at the presumptive Democratic nominee. Republicans deserve better and will Bolling they’ll likely get it.
Bolling can present himself as the competent, hardworking, and yes, conservative alternative to both Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe. His record is that of a common sense conservative who isn’t driven by ideology or thirst for power; instead our Lt. Governor seems driven by a need to see government work for Virginians from all walks of life. Bolling isn’t some political Don Quixote, off battling liberal giants, rather he’s here at home, doing his job, working to build consensus and move the state forward. Common sense conservative and competent leadership. That’s what Bolling could and SHOULD run on.
Original Column can be found at http://www.dailyprogress.com/newsvirginian/opinion/guest_columnists/article_a4b6f040-8370-11e2-a55d-0019bb30f31a.html