Virginians elect a new governor Nov. 5, and they’ll get a rare choice between a constitutional conservative and an abortion liberal. No Tweedle Dee vs. Tweedle Dum this time.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the probable Republican nominee, will face the likely Democratic nominee, Terry McAuliffe, without the waters being muddied by the spoiler candidacy of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who toyed with the notion of running as an “independent Republican.” All that would have accomplished is a split vote, almost certainly handing victory to Mr. McAuliffe, a former national chairman of the Democratic Party who was Bill Clinton’s bag man.
Mr. Bolling is a liberal who has made a point of distancing himself from his party by, among other things, opposing a Republican redistricting plan for the state Senate and by supporting the expansion of the state’s Medicaid rolls under Obamacare. Mr. Bolling’s decision to take a pass likely came down not so much about what was best for the state or the party, but rather to the realization that raising the $15 million needed to wage a credible statewide campaign without party support was not going to be easy. There just aren’t that many voters in the Old Dominion pining for the leadership of a liberal spoilsport Republican.
A Bolling third-party candidacy would have repeated the disaster of ‘94, when J. Marshall Coleman’s “independent Republican” candidacy, pushed by John W. Warner, resulted in Chuck Robb’s narrow victory over Oliver North. Mr. Robb, the Democrat, squeaked by with 45.6 percent of the vote over Mr. North’s 42.9 percent. Mr. Coleman finished a distant third at just 11.4 percent, enough to have elected Mr. North.
A Quinnipiac Poll last month strongly suggested that a three-way race involving Messrs. Cuccinelli, McAuliffe and Bolling would produce a similar partisan exercise, giving Democrats a narrow 34 percent to 31 percent lead. The Bolling vote would have likely assured a McAuliffe victory. The poll calls the Cuccinelli vs. McAuliffe race a dead heat, so this is likely to be one of the most interesting — and entertaining — off-year elections to watch.
Mr. Cuccinelli’s upbeat campaign message makes him a formidable challenge for Democrats, whom he defeated in 2009 with 57.5 percent of the vote. As attorney general, he proved his abilities as a leader by driving the legal challenge to Obamacare and taking it all the way to the Supreme Court. Mr. McAuliffe prefers the role of rabidly partisan attack dog.