Part One: A Rift in the Marriage, Cuccinelli and SCC Swipe the Nomination
George Washington, 1796 farewell address: “The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous trust were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable.” (emphasis added)
I wanted to choose a starting point for this series that would be both logical and well understood. So I finally decided on 2013. There are many people who will see “2013” in the previous sentence, and instantly know its meaning.
However, I chose it because I am not sure too many people (that don’t love to follow politics) fully understand the significant impact that event has had on the current state of the RPV. The year 2013 has been well covered in every form of media. This is not intended to be yet another painstakingly detailed explanation but, rather, chosen to show the rift … what I believe to be the first big successful attempt of the Coup.
I opened Part One of this series with a different quote from President Washington’s farewell address because I would bet solid gold that those words are still, in some form, part of the thoughts that Lt. Governor Bolling has had since 2011.
So let’s get through the common knowledge. Most everyone knows that Lt. Governor Bill Bolling and Attorney General Bob McDonnell both wanted to seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2009.
Back then, even with the occasional disagreements that are part of any marriage, most folks in the party would actually seek the very thing that prevents the GOP from winning a state wide election today. That dreaded word … COMPROMISE. They understood that without it, they could not win.
They decided, for 2009, Bob McDonnell would seek the nomination for Governor and Bill Bolling would seek reelection as Lieutenant Governor. And then in 2013, McDonnell and the party would fully support Bolling for the Governorship. However, it appears that no one asked Ken Cuccinelli, who successfully ran for Attorney General in that 2009 election, for his thoughts on the agreement. More on that in a moment.
So they ran as a ticket, and they won. Until the end of 2011, almost everyone expected Bolling to seek the nomination for Governor and AG Cuccinelli would stand for reelection. They had both been very successful in their respective roles, in the opinion of most Republicans. Bolling worked very hard on his jobs agenda and serving in the Senate as a tie breaker when the chamber was divided. Cuccinelli was a darling of the more conservative side of the RPV, fighting corruption and Obamacare.
Hindsight really is 20/20 while looking back on three near fatal things that happened as a result of the coming rift. The RPV cut itself in half, compromise died, and the GOP has not won statewide since.
I liken this incident to the start of a possible Coup D’état, like the incident that might cause a couple to start thinking of a divorce. I’m sure Mr. Cuccinelli was not pleased when the Washington Post outted his plans before he made is own announcement  but that is what happens in politics. So the next day Cuccinelli was forced to acknowledge his intentions that were only known at the time by a few within the GOPu.
(GOPu is my term for the “ultra” conservative faction of the party. GOPr is my term for “regular” old fashioned Republicans.)
Cuccinelli wrote an email to his staff on December 1, 2011, that stated, in part:
“After much prayer and consideration, I have decided to run for governor in 2013,’’ he writes in an e-mail obtained by the Post. “I have always intended to let you know before the media. Shortly after you receive this e-mail, I will be sending a statement to the media announcing my candidacy.”
Hells bells … we didn’t see that coming. Bill Bolling did not see it coming either :
“Needless to say, I am very disappointed by Mr. Cuccinelli’s decision to run for Governor in 2013,” Bolling said in a statement. “During the 2009 campaign, and since taking office in 2010, Mr. Cuccinelli had repeatedly stated that he intended to seek re-election as Attorney General in 2013 and that is what I and other Republican leaders had expected him to do. Unfortunately, he has now decided to put his own personal ambition ahead of the best interests of the commonwealth and the Republican Party.” (emphasis added)
Bill Bolling had every reason to believe and trust in both the arrangement with McDonnell and Cuccinelli’s stated intentions to seek reelection as Attorney General. I would imagine he felt betrayed, so it should have surprised no one that he did not willingly toss away his own plans and dreams to embrace Cuccinelli and his perceived power grab.
The Republican Party of Virginia State Party Plan is clear in the expectation that Republicans support each other to further their mutual goals and defeat Democrats, and Democrats expect the same from their own party. However, there are limits to what any individual can take without a fight.
For a time, Bolling considered a campaign for Governor as an Independent … some people talked about a write-in campaign. The GOPr folks were disgusted, the GOPu folks were emboldened. Just before he bowed out of the race, Bolling told Politico :
“If Republicans choose a nominee who is an ‘ideological firebrand” Bolling said, “it may make some in the base of our party happy, but we’re going to turn the governor’s office over to the Democrats next November.”
He was right … he’s still right.
But in the end, Bolling decided to step aside to the extent that it was possible for him to do so, and Bolling suspended his campaign for Governor.  In his letter, he said in part:
“Four years ago I decided to set my personal ambition to be Governor aside and join with Bob McDonnell to create a united Republican ticket. Time has proven the wisdom of that decision. Governor McDonnell and I were elected in 2009 by historic margins, and for the past three years we have successfully worked together to get Virginia back on the right track.
“I had hoped that Attorney General Cuccinelli and I would be able to form that same kind of united Republican ticket in 2013. However, late last year Mr. Cuccinelli unexpectedly announced that he intended to challenge me for the Republican Party’s nomination for Governor.
“While I was surprised and disappointed by Mr. Cuccinelli’s decision, I was confident in my ability to win our party’s nomination for Governor in a statewide primary election, which was the method of nomination that had previously been adopted by the State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia.
“However, in June of this year the newly constituted State Central Committee voted to change the manner in which we will nominate our candidates in 2013 from a statewide primary to a closed party convention. While I did not support that decision, it had a dramatic impact on the 2013 campaign.
“For the past several months my campaign team has worked hard to restructure our campaign to effectively compete in the convention process. While we have made a great deal of progress, I reluctantly concluded that the decision to change the method of nomination from a primary to a convention created too many obstacles for us to overcome.” (emphasis added)
And Mr. Cuccinelli became the party’s 2013 nominee for Governor. He lost … only by 2-3 points, but that is like being pregnant. You either are, or you’re not.
Because this is a series, I can’t jump to the end to highlight a glaring similarity, but you will not miss the point at the end of the series. Onward….
There are people who argued (including Cuccinelli) that agreements between others don’t matter. Cuccinelli was not part of the deal, so he had nothing to give him pause before making his decision.
I understand how they come to that thinking, but at the very least, Mr. Cuccinelli could have sat down with Bolling and McDonnell and had a discussion. But if Bolling is correct in his statement about the State Central Committee, Cuccinelli would have been too busy. Those same people also argued that Bolling should have actively supported Cuccinelli and the Republican ticket. Therein lies an additional “birth” of a large part of the GOPu.
There are people who argued that Cuccinelli should have done what he publically said he was going to do … seek reelection as Attorney General. Mr. Bolling had proven his willingness to put aside his dreams for the good of the party and that good intention should not be betrayed. Honor and decency should have led where it was agreed to lead. Mr. Cuccinelli should have done the same as Bolling did with McDonnell.
Bolling starting the Virginia Mainstream Project was a logical, important thing to do for those who viewed this as part of a Coup … those who, like Bolling, understood that the GOP would not win another state wide election with divisive nature and one narrow vision of what is right and what is wrong … that would be the GOPr.
But just as a betrayal, either perceived or actual, will divide the strongest of marriages, it will divide a party. There is no language that can be incorporated into the RPV governing documents that can address the basic variable that caused this huge rift … human nature.
And so the first cut was made … with the precision of a drunken surgeon … cutting at the beating heart that preserved the party as one. But that was in 2013. Let me see if I can find a good example of what the next maneuver will be.
Even though this situation is still being used to exact revenge, it is not 2013 anymore….
See also from Andrea Epps: RPV and the Wisdom of Washington … George Washington .