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Cuccinelli Channels Stonewall Jackson

By Greg L | 22 May 2012 | RPV, Virginia Politics | 8 Comments

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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  1. Chris Green said on 22 May 2012 at 11:56 pm:
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    and those ‘Conservative’ victories would not have happened had not a group of volunteers entered their ranks under the banner of Ron Paul….

  2. Just saying said on 23 May 2012 at 5:27 am:
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    Bolling can do what he did last time — suddenly remember he has a family obligation that he needs to tend to until the next election.

  3. wannawin said on 23 May 2012 at 3:08 pm:
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    KC + RP = take-over of SCC in VA, without a doubt. Bolling does seem a tad irrelevant these days, and that is somewhat unfortunate, given that BB was holding the line, finger in the dyke all by himself, in the VA senate for decades prior to KC.

    But isn’t that the name of the game in politics? When you are hot, you are hot; when you are not, you are not, and KC is hot right now. Few would question that reality.

    But this is the core issue, IMHO: If KC can garner the independent vote block + bring along the GOP voters, he will win. If not, perhaps we’d best look elsewhere for our next standard bearer.

    Although I’m not a RP fan (I’m pro-life; anti-legalization of illicit drug useage; favor enforcement of laws restricting pedophilia, etc) by combining forces with the RP supporters, KC absolutely shellacked his op.

    Power plays are always a sight to behold, and good for the KC team for their ground game. After all, that’s where it all happens. Anyone who doubts that reality is in denia — & will end up on the losing side.

  4. The Ghost of Alexander Hamilton said on 23 May 2012 at 9:26 pm:
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    You provide an interesting analysis and so does Mason Conservative on this particular subject. I have to say, while I have maintained an attitude of support for the Lt. Governor, he cannot be upset at the results of the recent conventions. He did this to himself.

    Bill has little room to maneuver, and the chances of him beating Ken in a Primary or Convention are slim. At this point, Bolling has three possible cards left to play.

    1) McDonnell gets tapped as the VP (unlikely but possible) and if a Romney/McDonnell ticket wins, the Lt. Governor becomes the Governor. This means Ken will be taking on an incumbent Governor (albeit a weak one.) This could make things interesting.

    2) Bolling hopes for a position in a Romney Administration and backs out of the Governor’s race gracefully.

    3) Run for LG for an unprecedented third term.

    Scenario #2 is far more likely than #1 but I threw that out there only because it creates a “constitutional” issue that is interesting to consider. #3 is almost a non-starter…If he were to do that, he would be viewed as weak and impotent and he would never be able to get the nomination, even if he decided to make a play for it in 2017.

    At the end of the day, a KC for Governor campaign becomes difficult against the Democrats, especially if Warner were to really come back and run for Governor. Against McAuliffe, KC has a decent shot because there is a lot to work with, but 2013 could prove to be a much different mood than 2012 and Ken will have to work hard to convince independents and soft Democrats that he is the right choice.

    The battle for Primary VS. Convention is a silly fight that has no bearing on the outcome of the Gubernatorial nominee. As you pointed out, that die has been cast, barring some unforeseen calamity. Its a shame, because Bolling has a bright future. Unfortunately, I don’t see it including the Governor’s mansion in January 2014.

  5. DJR said on 25 May 2012 at 12:06 pm:
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    Unfortunately, Greg’s analogy to the US Civil War is a bit too good. Despite some early successes, the South never really had a chance to win the war. The South had too few people and too small of an industrial base. The Union Navy blockaded southern ports and choked off the South’s supply line. In the end, Stonewall Jackson was accidentally killed by his own troops and the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered unconditionally at Appomattox Court House.

    Ken Cuccinelli will tantalize the ultra - conservatives in the state. There will be early victories such as a likely victory in the primary or convention.

    However, just as the South could not win the US Civil War so, too, Cuccinelli cannot win the general election.

    Cuccinelli is correctly perceived as a bastion of the far right. To those on the far right this makes him a hero. To everybody else, this makes him a radical. From Obama to the Tea Party the majority of Americans (and Virginians) are tired of radicals.

    Chap Petersen’s recent announcement that he will not be running for governor seems to pave the way for a second run by Terry McAuliffe. Many Republicans could make Terry McAuliffe look like a radical. However, compared to Cuccinelli, he will look like God’s own moderate. The far left will go McAuliffe, the far right will go Cucinelli and the middle will go largely McAuliffe. Game, set, match.

    The RPV would have a better chance in the general election with Bolling.

    Now, Bob McDonnell did a lot to reform his far right image ahead of the last election. He also had the benefit of no primary opponent while the Democrats ran a three way race. There is some chance that Cuccinelli can head to “political charm school” and try to do the same. However, Cucinelli lacks the discipline and maturity of McDonnell. He tends to “pop off”. He also has a vastly more radical reputation than McDonnell ever had (thesis and all). Plus, he may be in a primary that could be a lot closer than Greg L thinks. This could see Cuccinelli forced to pander to the far right who vote in primaries or attend conventions. This would further cement his image as a radical.

    Meanwhile, I am guessing that McAuliffe will not face any opposition. I base that guess on the belief that the Democrats have learned from the last election and the fact that Chap Petersen dropped out. McAuliffe has been spending a lot of time down-state with economic development efforts. That was no accident.

    The Republicans will try to paint McAuliffe as an Obama crony although that will be all but useless if Romney wins. Moreover, the enduring image most people have of MccAuliffe is with Bill Clinton, not Barack Obama. And the remembrance of the Clinton Administration is improving with time. Even Hillary Clinton is widely acknowledged as one of the very few competent people in the current administration. Expect to see a lot of Bill Clinton if McAuliffe is the nominee.

    Like Stonewall Jackson in 1862, there are “the happy days” for Cuccinelli supporters. However, as Jackson found and the RPV will find - happy days don’t always last.

  6. Greg L said on 25 May 2012 at 1:00 pm:
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    DJR, you don’t seem to remember where Cuccinelli was serving in the State Senate — right in the midst of Fairfax County, where Dave Marsden currently serves. He hasn’t changed at all since then although his stature has risen tremendously.

    He won convincingly in his AG race in 2009, running about even in Fairfax and crushing it downstate. This isn’t the first time the voters have seen him, nor the first time they’ve had a chance to pass judgment on him.

    In short, if Cooch can win against liberals in a Fairfax County district, he can thump liberals in a state-wide race. Don’t make the same mistake so many liberals have in the past and underestimate him.

  7. park'd said on 26 May 2012 at 3:49 pm:
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    DJR said: “From Obama to the Tea Party the majority of Americans (and Virginians) are tired of radicals.”

    I think you have this a little backwards. Virginians and Americans in general on both sides are tired of people in their party not towing the line and voting other side politics. You can call someone a ‘radical’ because they have strict morals and vote according to those morals but don’t make the mistake of thinking Americans are ‘tired’ of that because they are certainly not. If anything, Americans are tired of politicians who vote for their Wall Street masters instead of for their constituents’ wishes.

  8. NoVA Scout said on 27 May 2012 at 5:32 pm:
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    I am more than a little puzzled by the appearance of intelligent analysis and commentary in this thread on this site. What the hell is going on?

    Park’d is trying to bring it back down to usual levels by saying that we are “tired of people in their party not voting the party line . . . ” The party line is for television commercials and bumper stickers. Americans are completely tired of party lines and people who would make careers on them.

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