Now that I am EFM’s only Virginian:
This morning, the state’s top ranking Republican elected official, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, will endorse Mitt Romney at a press conference in Richmond. The endorsement is a coup for the former Massachusetts governor, who is eager to show that he is viable in the South despite languishing in the polls in South Carolina, where the first Southern primary votes will be cast. Tonight, Romney heads over to Virginia Beach for a fundraising dinner. As notable as the endorsement, perhaps, is that Romney’s fundraising in Virginia did not fall off a cliff with Thompson’s entrance onto the stage — Romney collected $308,000 in the state in the quarter ending June 30, compared with about $466,000 in the first quarter, a dropoff more or less in line with Romney’s fundraising pace nationally over the first half of the year. Likewise, Rudy Giuliani collected $300,000 in the state in the second quarter, on top of about $438,000 in the first quarter.
Among those attending Thompson’s big kickoff speech in Richmond was Donald Ledwig, a former president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and chairman of the Alexandria Electoral Board. At the time, Ledwig said he was intrigued by Thompson’s arrival on the scene. But now, he’s leaning more and more toward Romney, saying his experience as governor and as a business executive, combined with his picture-perfect family, makes him an ideal Republican candidate. He predicted that Romney would exceed expectations in Virginia, even if he has to overcome anti-Mormon bias among some evangelical voters. After all, the fastest-growing part of the state is Northern Virginia, where Romney’s business-friendly vibe might match or trump Thompson’s Southern drawl (and where, as it happens, there is a greater concentration of Mormons than almost anywhere else on the East Coast.)
“He’s the ideal candidate from central casting,” said Ledwig. “It looks to me like Romney’s the man that someone’s going to have to beat.”
UPDATE: Bolling is a Southern Baptist.