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Remaining in office could even increase Mr. Cuccinelli’s visibility and provide attention that he is unlikely to receive solely on the campaign trail, said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

“If you are actually in office, there are actions you can take and press you can get that you might not get from just running a campaign,” he said. “It kind of becomes this double-barrel media effect. I think that’s a clear benefit, but the fundraising thing is kind of the problem.”

Mr. Cuccinelli’s term as attorney general has been notable for highly publicized lawsuits he filed against the federal government on the health care overhaul and the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases — issues which Democrats hope to use against him.

“Ken Cuccinelli has already spent three years using his taxpayer-funded office as a launching pad for his divisive ideological agenda. Now he wants to be a part-time attorney general while he campaigns for another job,” state Democratic Party spokesman Brian Coy said. “Virginians deserve better than a governor who puts his political agenda ahead of their best interests.”

Analysts argue that eventually, Mr. Cuccinelli will have to contend with the fundraising might of Mr. McAuliffe, a wealthy businessman and former Democratic National Committee chairman who spent $8.3 million on his way to losing the 2009 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

His primary spending was more than his two Democratic opponents combined and nearly triple the $3 million that Mr. Cuccinelli spent in his attorney general’s bid — a race that he won despite being outspent by Democrat Stephen C. Shannon.

Dan Palazzolo, a political-science professor at the University of Richmond, said Mr. Cuccinelli is unlikely to face much judgment from voters over his decision alone, but that balancing work and the campaign could prove especially difficult if Mr. Bolling decides to mount a third-party challenge down the stretch.

Bill Bolling is not very happy and could make some problems for him,” Mr. Palazzolo said. “These rules of thumb are never hard and fast, but I think each politician needs to make a decision.”

Mr. Cuccinelli said he doesn’t foresee any problems. He argued that Virginia is one of the few states, if not the only one, where attorneys general routinely step down while seeking higher office.

He said he has consulted several attorneys general who have won governor’s seats, including Pennsylvania’s Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, and all of them told him that campaigning while in office is completely manageable.

“Whether I stay or go, Democrats are going to criticize me,” Mr. Cuccinelli said. “I’d rather they criticize me for keeping my word.”