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The Other Option Against Mark Warner

The Washington Post plows a bit of ground familiar to Bearing drift readers: which Republican can mount a serious challenge [1] to Sen. Mark Warner. there are two GOP candidates in the race — Shak Hill and Howie Lind. Neither has much name recognition and an objective observer would give neither much chance to beat the very popular Warner.

Ken Cuccinelli’s name is on the lips of many of his supporters. I appreciate the sentiment. But let’s be brutally honest: Cuccinelli blew his chance to take on Warner. Yes, he could still be a serious challenger. But I strongly suspect that if he decides to make another statewide run, it will be against Tim Kaine in 2018.

There’s a bit of a drum beat for Sen. Jeff McWaters to make a run against Warner next year, and he may have the desire to run. His one downside? He could be vulnerable on health care [2]. It’s not insurmountable. But you can bet the ranch Warner’s team is building a nice oppo file on McWaters based upon his time as CEO of Amerigroup.

McWaters’ clear advantage is that he could quickly become financially competitive in a race against Warner. Does he have the chops to run statewide? That’s the open question.

But there is another possibility — a potential candidate who has run and won statewide and who still seems to have the bug: Bill Bolling.

Yes, I know: Bolling has sown the ground with salt. His career is, in the eyes of most observers, deader than Jacob Marley. And yes, when he had the opportunity to prove his mettle against Ken Cuccinelli, he instead went to the sidelines to hone his skill at dart throwing.

But there are those who still believe he’s the best man for statewide office — practical, business friendly, and most of all, no hysterics. Or so the thinking goes.

To read this interview [3] with Bolling is to see a man who believes he has a mission. It’s a mission to divert the GOP back into the mythical “mainstream,” but there’s a little more to it:

The goals of this effort are really, I would say, fourfold: One is to recruit and support mainstream Republican candidates for public office, and we’ve done that. Second was to call our party back to a more mainstream place. Third was to find opportunities to get Democrats and Republicans talking together to actually solve problems and get things done. And then, finally, to offer some policy solutions to some of the important challenges that people face in Virginia.

We’re going to take a pragmatic approach to getting things done, and try to get people to move beyond the rigid ideologies of the right or the left, and understand that problems cannot be solved by listening to the most extreme voices of either political party.

Such soothing words are exactly the sorts of things Mark Warner and Tim Kaine used to advance their political careers.

Are they part of what could be a strong challenge to Warner? A GOP bent on winning would look at Bolling and think he’s not only their ideal candidate, but also their only chance against Warner.

Yes, Bolling stuck his thumb in Ken Cuccinelli’s eye this year. Repeatedly. Yes, his long-time consultant, Boyd Marcus, jumped to Terry McAuliffe’s campaign in exchange for a fat payday. He backed the transportation bill, favors Medicaid expansion, and has spent the last few months trying to erase all traces of his political past. The faults are many, and the case against him running for anything ever again is strong.

But he would be an intriguing alternative…