I had the chance to speak with Attorney General Cuccinelli over the weekend, and one of the topics that came up in that discussion is precisely what Mason Conservative felt compelled to discuss tonight. After what we’ve seen happen over the past few weekends at district conventions across the state, is it even worth it for Bill Bolling to continue his campaign? That’s a fascinating question.
First, here’s Chris’ take:
But Bolling is largely an isolated figure now. Ken has control of the party and its apparatus, and I imagine the sitting governor will not look to anger those supporters that will be key to any future race he might have in mind after he leaves office. I suspect McDonnell will do what he can to check Cuccinelli where he can, but you cannot ignore the machine Ken is building in this state. It is unmatched, and one Republicans haven’t seen since the Allen heyday. He has found a way to finally bridge Northern Virginia with the rest of the state inside the Republican Party. It is a move that I cannot see how Bolling can out-flank. The ankle-biters will no doubt complain if the SCC changes the method of nomination, but most people who actually know understand that it really doesn’t matter.
A big reason Bolling came up so short here is that he effectively surrendered. Bolling wasn’t at a single district convention as far as I can tell, and there wasn’t any presence from his campaign at either the first or tenth district conventions that I attended other than sending Marissa Pugmire there to observe. Even though Bolling has about a million dollars in his campaign account as of the last finance report — nearly ten times more than Cuccinelli — his campaign is doing nothing. Cuccinelli is everywhere, building an army, and that army has swept away every obstacle before it, leaving the apparatus of RPV firmly in Cuccinelli’s hands.
That certainly makes a question about whether Bolling should step aside awfully relevant. Cuccinelli responded to me that he’s not going to ask anyone else to do anything, and was pretty adamant about it. Other candidates can do whatever they’re going to do, and it really doesn’t matter to him. Actually, he’s right about that. Ken’s opponents have no control over what’s going to happen for the foreseeable future.
Back in the spring of 1862 there was a guy in a position similar to this. His name was Thomas J. Jackson, but most of us know him by his nickname, “Stonewall.” He was given the task of keeping control of the Valley so Union forces wouldn’t join together against Robert E. Lee who was trying to defend Richmond. Jackson was heavily outnumbered, threatened from multiple directions, not terribly well supported, and given a very challenging task. His defense of the Valley is one of the most brilliant military campaigns of the Civil War as Jackson exhibited remarkable creativity, speed and decisiveness. Most of all, Jackson had amazing audacity. Conventional wisdom would suggest you don’t attack numerically superior forces, but Jackson did it anyways. Conventional wisdom wouldn’t lead you to divide your forces in the face of the enemy in order to concentrate on one of multiple threats, but Jackson did that, too. In perfectly adhering to the concepts of classical Napoleonic warfare, Jackson threw out all the rules and no opposing commander knew how to deal with him.
In many ways Ken Cuccinelli exhibits the same kind of audacity and brings a remarkably unconventional approach to political engagement that must confound Bolling’s campaign to no end. Bolling might have expected Cooch to compete in a head’s up fundraising battle, but instead Cooch seizes control of RPV without expending much more than gas money. Bolling might have expected Cooch to compete in trying to align with whoever will likely be the 2012 presidential nominee, and instead Cooch focuses on the grassroots and pretty much ignores presidential politics. While Bolling is conventional and predictable, Cuccinelli is audacious and unconventional.
At the conclusion of the Valley Campaign, Union forces simply withdrew. They couldn’t beat him, they couldn’t seize the Valley, and they gave up the idea of going toe-to-toe with “Stonewall”. Jackson had tied up forces four times the size of his own — forces that were sorely needed elsewhere and could have influenced the outcome of Lee’s Peninsula Campaign. Now, McDonnell and Bolling are heavily invested in what they likely see as the larger strategic campaign of Mitt Romney and are quickly discovering that going toe-to-toe with Ken Cuccinelli over a Governorship is just as difficult and exasperating as trying to dislodge General Thomas J. Jackson from the Shenandoah River. The more effort McDonnell and Bolling invest in trying to defeat Cuccinelli right now, the less there is to devote to supporting their ally Mitt Romney, and by the time the presidential election concludes there might not be much left for Bill Bolling to work with.
Bolling’s chances of winning the nomination, whether that is decided in a primary or a convention (it hardly matters much at this point) are fading fast. His best alternative might be to withdraw from the Governor’s race in favor of devoting his time to the Romney campaign in hopes Romney can find a good spot for him in his administration if he wins. Losing the nomination leaves Bolling at as much of a political dead end as much as Union forces being defeated in detail would have left Lincoln at a military dead end with the right flank of Washington exposed to the Army of Northern Virginia. It’s far better to live to fight another day than to have Stonewall Jackson or Ken Cuccinelli completely demolish you.
While Ken Cuccinelli isn’t going to call on Bill Bolling to surrender the nomination, pretty soon Bolling won’t have a choice and that day is rapidly approaching. While Bolling’s people are freaking out about the possibility of RPV changing the nomination process from a primary to a convention they might not have figured out yet that their campaign isn’t likely to last up to the point that a nomination process actually happens. Pretty soon they’ll have no option but to face what’s really happening in this campaign and figure out some sort of exit strategy. Cuccinelli won’t have to say a word about it, because like “Stonewall” he hasn’t left them with any better alternative. Bolling is hemmed in, and has no real options other than withdrawal or utter defeat.
The only question in my mind is about when that pretty much inevitable decision will be made public.
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