This post has been updated.
Mitt Romney giveth and he taketh away. On the day he fired up the conservative base by selecting Paul Ryan as his running mate, he also dissed one of the tea party’s favorite rising political stars and one of his recent surrogates.
At his second Virginia campaign stop of the day Saturday after debuting Ryan as his running mate, Romney appeared to wade into the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial GOP primary which pits Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling against Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Bolling joined Romney on the trail, first in Norfolk where Ryan made his first speech of the day and then in Ashland, Va., where Romney and Ryan made another appearance.
Romney said Bolling was “a great friend” and added, “I hope the next governor of Virginia.”
Bolling is one Romney’s Virginia campaign co-chairs.
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) introduced Romney at the Norfolk event and he also gave Bolling some love, but didn’t offer the same kind of endorsement, though McDonnell has been on Team Bolling for quite a while now.
Speaking to an overflow crowd after the Ashland event, Romney changed his tune on the 2013 primary.
“We’re counting on you to make sure that when Bob McDonnell retires, I know this one term thing is an unusual thing in Virginia. We want to make sure to have a Republican take his place,” Romney said. “There are a couple of guys in the race, I love them both. I want to see one of those guys take his place.”
Cuccinelli was apparently not in attendance at either event. Cuccinelli’s campaign staff directed TPM to the Romney campaign, who told us Romney “wants to see another Republican elected governor in Virginia, but he has not endorsed in the primary.”
The Bolling camp backed Romney up.
“Governor Romney and Bill are good friends and he was just trying to be kind. You shouldn’t read anything more into his comment than that,” Bolling spokesperson Taylor Thornley said in an email. “We’re focused on getting Governor Romney elected President. Thats all that matters right now.”
It’s hard to imagine a bigger tea party star than Cuccinelli, who made a national name for himself by taking on climate scientists and leading the charge to overturn the health care reform law in the federal courts. His appearances at tea party and conservative events always draw a huge crowd, and a June poll showed Republican primary voters in Virginia currently favor him over Bolling by a 3-to-1margin.
Like many conservatives, Cuccinelli has had a rocky relationship with Romney. But he endorsed him for president and has been working on his behalf, as the Washington Examiner reported in July:
Cuccinelli once called Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney “Democrat light” and refused to endorse George Allen, the heavy favorite in this year’s GOP Senate primary. But Cuccinelli is now working vigorously on behalf of both candidates.
Cuccinelli served as a surrogate for Romney in July 16, when he participated in a Romney conference call.