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Analysis: Bolling's Exit Sets Up 'Clash Of The Titans'

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Virginia's Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling is dropping out of his bid for the Republican nomination in the 2013 governor's race, saying the Virginia GOP's nominating switch from a primary election to a convention places him at too great a disadvantage. Bolling's decision appears to leave State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli with a clear path to the Republican nomination. Meanwhile, former national Democratic party chairman Terry McAuliffe has said he will run, while Sen. Mark Warner announced last week he will not seek another term as governor.

Reid Wilson, editor-in-chief of National Journal Hotline, talks with WAMU's Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey about these latest developments in the governor's race. Here are some highlights:

Initial reaction to Bolling's decision: "This is sort of bowing to the inevitable. The Virginia Republicans will choose a nominee through a convention process rather than a primary and Bolling's calculation was always that he would do better in a primary which has a larger pool of voters than in a convention process which woudl facor a conservative stalwart like Cuccinelli," Wilson says. "It looks like now he would not be able to win over those delegates at the convention, so he's … dropping out." 

What this means for the race as it stands now: "It leaves a battle of the titans. Ken Cuccinelli is a hero of the right and Terry McAuliffe is somebody who's been involved in party fundraising for the better part of two decades and is now taking his second bid for the Virginia governorship," Wilson says. "Both are going to be able to draw on such huge wellsprings of support from their respective bases." 

How Republicans could bounce back after huge losses in Virginia in 2012: "Well, the electorate in 2013 is going to look a lot different than the electorate in 2012. Consider just the last two major elections we've had. In 2012, with the presidential contest, white voters, who are predisposed toward Republicans, made up 70 percent of the electorate. Back in 2006 however, the last off-year election that we've got exit poling for, white voters made up 78 percent of the electorate," Wilson says. "A less diverse electorate favors the Republican party, so we're going to see a bit of a scramble here on the Republican side to turn out as many voters as they can and a big scramble on the Democratic side to turn out as many voters as they can — those voters who don't necessarily show up in off year elections."

On what Democrats will be trying to do: "Since the 1970s, Virginia has voted against the party that wins the White House in every single case," Wilson says. "So what Democrats need to do is they need to not only turn out the voters who showed up in 2012, but to appeal to the voters that make up the core electorate, the white working class around not only the Richmond suburbs, but southwest and down to Norfolk area. In Northern Virginia, which has become their key battleground, you tell me who's going to win Loudoun County and Prince William County, and I'll tell you who's going to win statewide." 

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