May 23, 2009 19 Comments ›› Pat Dollard
In another sign that heâ€™s eying a second run for the presidency, Mitt Romney is planning a series of stops in Virginia next week to help Republican candidates running in the commonwealthâ€™s off-year election.
Virginia is one of a handful of states with competitive races this year, and one where Republican officials feel best about their prospects for victory.
The former Massachusetts governor is the featured guest at the high-dollar gala next Friday prior to the Virginia GOPâ€™s state convention in Richmond â€” one of the partyâ€™s chief fundraising events.
That same day, Romney will also headline fundraisers for Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling â€” a breakfast in Newport News and a lunch in Virginia Beach. Bolling served as Romneyâ€™s campaign chairman in Virginia during the 2008 primary, even though the former Massachusetts governor withdrew from the race before the contest reached the commonwealth.
On Thursday night, Romney is the special guest at a Bolling fundraiser being held at the McLean home of uber-fundraiser Fred Malek, which will follow a Romney appearance at an Arlington business forum on the potential impact of the Employee Free Choice Act on Virginia businesses and workers.
â€œMitt Romney is going to be actively involved in important races this year and next,â€ said his spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom. â€œOne of those races is in Virginia. Bob McDonnell and Bill Bolling are offering good strong conservative leadership and they are best prepared to meet the challenges facing the people of Virginia now and in the future.â€
Of course, lending a hand to Republicans desperate to break a string of statewide losses surely wonâ€™t be forgotten in future years.
â€œWell, there are two kinds of people who would do it,â€ said University of Virginia Professor Larry Sabato of Romneyâ€™s trek. â€œThose planning a presidential run next time around, and those who are stark raving mad. From all indications, Romney falls into the former category.â€
Sabato also noted that with Bollingâ€™s re-election, â€œRomney would have his chairman already in place, and organizing for him earlier than any other potential candidate.â€
Governors and lieutenant governors run separately in Virginia. McDonnell faces no GOP opponent in next Saturdayâ€™s party convention and Bolling has only nominal opposition.
Romney will likely hold a joint media availability on Friday with McDonnell and Bolling.
Heâ€™s not the only national figure joining the fray in Virginia, whose post-presidential statewide elections are sometimes seen as something of a bellwether for the mood toward the administration. Former President Bill Clinton has already joined his friend and gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe for stops throughout the commonwealth ahead of the June 9th Democratic primary and former presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has stumped for McDonnell.
Additionally, the rival party governorsâ€™ associations have already combined to spend millions on TV ads in the race, including on networks in the pricey Washington, D.C. media market.
For Romney, the Virginia swing comes after heâ€™s begun to speak out more aggressively against President Obama, weighing in on issues ranging from health care to national security.
He is also one of the key players in the National Council for a New America, a party rejuvenation effort being spearheaded by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va). Earlier this month, the hero of the Salt Lake Olympics cut an ad on behalf of Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), who faces a conservative primary challenger next year.