Cuccinelli gets a boost, and McAuliffe may have been broken, thanks to Bill Bolling

There are few things more entertaining, and informative, than reading what Paul Goldman has to say about Virginia politics. His most recent column on the transportation debate and its possible effects on the gubernatorial race is a case in point, because for all my discussions with Paul over the last couple of weeks regarding how this topic, this is the first time I’ve seen him say the convention wisdom is wrong. And for that, we can thank none other than Bill Bolling:

Lt. Governor Bill Bolling has done the seemingly impossible: he has proposed what only be described as the Bill Bolling Bizzaro Transportation “compromise”, combining the WORST POLITICAL ASPECTS of both the House/GUV plan and the Senate/DEM plan. Not only that: it doesn’t make any policy sense either. So hopefully, since it is bad policy, we can agree to just discuss what really will matter in the end, the 200-proof politics of the transportation issue.

Here goes: Bizzaro Bill’s politics on transportation call into question the accepted wisdom that a Bolling independent candidacy is guaranteed to take a lot of net-votes from Ken Cuccinelli. The accepted wisdom assumes – I have been guilty of this myself – Mr. Bolling had not been seduced by those press clippings heralding his “political sex change” from a loyal leader of the conservative Republican Caucus in the Senate – where he generally voted in concert with then Senator Cuccinelli – to the bizzaro Bill “moderate” Republican darling of the media.

Sure, Bolling would use the new “image” to his advantage. But the accepted wisdom had to assume when push came to shove, he didn’t want to elect Cuccinelli, after all, the feud between the two is the motivating reason for the Bolling suicide mission. That is to say: Bolling would not actually believe all that media manipulation.

So much for assumption. The Bill Bolling Bizarro Transportation “Compromise” has got to have the McAuliffe campaign worried this morning, and the Cuccinelli team figuring that maybe God is a Republican, or at least he hasn’t changed his registration to Democrat.

Why? Because it is clear Bolling actually is believing those press clippings, the LG really believes he is the “moderate” third guy in this race. This is incredibly bad news for Terry and incredible dumb luck for Ken. It is precisely what Democrats don’t want: a second guy in the race pulling for the moderate voters unhappy with Cuccinelli.

I ask you: How else to explain his Bizzaro Bolling tranny plan, contained in a letter to the House/Senate conferees, unless the LG actually believes this “moderate” silliness?

There’s lots more, of course, but what I’ve been trying to tell Paul for a while now is that there really could be a nasty three-way split over transportation that would be somewhat reminiscent of the last big tax fight back in 2004.

The Governor would have a plan. The Senate would have a much more expensive plan. The House, poor lambs, would be torn between those who want nothing to do with higher taxes and those who do what they are told. And Democrats. It would all sort out in some manner, but the bigger question would be “what’s Ken Cuccinelli going to do?” I’ve always leaned toward the idea that he would oppose, perhaps at the very last-minute, an overly complicated compromise that looked a lot more like an old-fashioned tax hike than a transportation bill.

That seemed like a longshot. Until Mr. Bolling endorsed the Democratic approach on road funding. Bolling has cast his lot with the Democrats and not a few Senate Republicans…Blevins, Stosch, Wagner and Watkins (Sens. Carrico and McWaters were recorded as “yes” votes, but they meant to vote “no”).

We really have gone back to the future, but with Bolling taking on the roll of Russ Potts. Even the Gang of Five is back!

And if we are back in the mixed-up days of 2004, we have to consider that one of the folks who not only survived, but thrived in all the chaos was…Ken Cuccinelli.

Is he ready for it this time? The stakes are far higher than they were nine years ago. But if he plays the transportation issue correctly — with an unexpected assist from Bill Bolling — the political payoff could be huge.