Virginia governor’s race exposes GOP civil war

The ultra-conservatives vs. "squishy, RINO, Republican wimps"

Topics: Virginia, Republicans, Bob McDonnell, Ken Cuccinelli, Conservatives,

Virgina’s governor race has become a reflection of the larger rift within the Republican Party, with the ultra-conservative presumptive nominee Ken Cuccinelli alienating mainstream Republicans and inviting a third-party challenge from the state’s more moderate lieutenant governor.

The National Journal reports:

Republicans are viewing the governor’s race with increased urgency. Conservatives are turning against popular GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell, who was frequently mentioned as a 2016 presidential candidate. The state limits the governor to one term.  Many of the party’s business allies are breaking with Ken Cuccinelli, the GOP’s nominee for governor, dissatisfied with his focus on polarizing social issues in kicking off his campaign. And the state’s GOP lieutenant governor, Bill Bolling, is openly mulling a third-party bid, which is looking more plausible by the day.

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Cuccinelli has called the Obama administration “the biggest set of lawbreakers in America,” and sued the administration (over the healthcare law), the EPA and a climate scientist. Not to mention the fact that he tiptoes around birthers, and supports antiabortion and anti-contraception laws.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reports, business leaders in the state expressed their skepticism of Cuccinelli’s ability to win the general election in a state that went for President Obama twice:

At a closed-door meeting of Republican business leaders in Washington on Friday, two prominent Virginia executives confronted Mr. Cuccinelli for being too ideological to win in 2013, in what will likely be the highest-profile election nationally this year.

Much of the unease emanates from the camp of [McDonnell] and especially his [Bolling], who in an interview called Mr. Cuccinelli “an ideological firebrand who is outside the mainstream of Virginia.”

“Bob McDonnell and I — somehow in today’s Republican Party we’ve become squishy, RINO, Republican wimps. I still don’t understand how that happened,” Bolling told the National Journal. “In many ways, I think our party is in search of an identity. Are we going to be a party that’s more interested in rigid ideological confrontation? Or are we going to be a party that’s focused on getting things done?”

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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