Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling will drop his bid for the Virginia governorship, CNN has confirmed, a move that clears a path to the Republican nomination for his primary opponent Ken Cuccinelli.
Bolling's decision sets the table for a titanic 2013 clash between Cuccinelli, the state's Attorney General and a fierce social conservative with a national grassroots following, and likely Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, the irrepressible former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Bolling, first elected to his post in 2005, was backed by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and served as Mitt Romney’s campaign chairman in the commonwealth during the Republican’s failed presidential bid.
But even with that blue-chip political resume, Bolling faced long odds against Cuccinelli, especially after state GOP officials decided earlier this year to hold a nominating convention instead of a statewide primary - a process thought to favor Cuccinelli, the candidate with a closer connection to the party’s conservative, tea-party friendly base.
A source familiar with Bolling’s thinking told CNN that he recognized “how difficult it would be to win the nomination” against his GOP rival.
Bolling “did not want to divide the party,” the source said.