Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said a new book by his fellow Republican, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, "will give the Democrats a lot of ammunition to use against" Cuccinelli in the governor's race this year. Of course, it could provide ammo to Bolling as well.
Bolling has consistently questioned the electability of his one-time rival since conceding the Republican gubernatorial nomination to Cuccinelli in November. But Bolling is now considering running for governor as an independent. And the criticism being leveled at Cuccinelli's book, "The Last Line of Defense," is the latest sign that Bolling sees plenty of room in the political center to make the race competitive.
Bolling hasn't actually read Cuccinelli's book, which hits bookstores on Feb. 12, his office said. But he says passages from the book, like the assertion that entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare breed government dependency, are not "consistent with what a majority of Virginians believe."
"My own mom and dad relied on Social Security and Medicare to help them through the last years of their lives," Bolling said. "These programs may need reforms to preserve them for the future, but seniors shouldn't be criticized as dependents because they receive Social Security and Medicare."
Bolling also is starting to build a record that puts him much closer to moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats than either Cuccinelli or the likely Democratic nominee, Terry McAuliffe.
In a surprise move last week, Bolling endorsed an expansion of Virginia's Medicaid rolls under President Obama's health care reforms even though many in his party, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, oppose it.
Earlier this year, Bolling got ahead of McDonnell in publicly announcing that he opposes lifting the state ban on uranium mining, citing environmental and health concerns.
Bolling's newfound outspokenness have led many in Richmond speculating that the man who had been McDonnell's handpicked successor until Cuccinelli knocked him out of the race will enter ultimately to run after the General Assembly adjourns later this month.
"He's certainly acting as if he's up to something," said Sen. Steve Martin, R-Chesterfield.
Last year, Bolling, the presiding officer of the Senate, rarely weighed in on legislation unless he was called on to cast a tie-breaking vote. When he did speak out, he was always in synch with his fellow Republicans.
But after seven years as the state's second in command, Bolling remains largely unknown across the state and is looking for way to breakout.
"He has been very successful in staking out positions that have gotten him a lot of attention this year," said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington. "If Bolling is planning on not running, it doesn't seem likely he'd be nearly this visible."