Lynchburg, VA - The race for Virginia's next governor took a surprising turn Wednesday after Lt. Governor Bill Bolling dropped out of the race.
The announcement took political experts and party insiders by surprise.
Now, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is the likely GOP candidate. But is that what's best for the party? There's concern Cuccinelli's too conservative to win.
As it's shaping up now, the race is Democrat Terry McAuliffe versus Cuccinelli. For one expert, McAuliffe is more electable in Virginia.
Put Cuccinelli and Bolling side by side, and Cuccinelli is clearly more conservative. For Political Science Professor Vincent Vecera, Cuccinelli's got some convincing to do with voters.
"The average Virginia Republican is conservative. But the average Virginia voter is fairly moderate," said Vecera.
The Virginia voter has changed in recent years. The Commonwealth voting Democratic for president is just one example of its moderate trend. Now, with the more moderate Republican choice, Bolling, out of the picture, what are the odds the GOP can snatch the governorship?
"It was a little surprising. Bolling was unquestionably the strongest general election candidate the Republican Party had," said Vecera.
"There haven't been any warnings, I haven't heard any chatter about it. There's been nothing at all," said Mark Peake.
Peake is an area leader in the GOP. Bolling's announcement surprised him. But a more conservative candidate like Cuccinelli is the direction some want to take the party.
"There's a large group of people who believe the reason we've lost is because we have not been conservative enough," said Peake.
In the general election, it's likely Conservative Cuccinelli will go head to head with moderate Democrat McAuliffe. That means McAullife's got a lot of campaigning ahead of him.
"He was a banker and a very successful businessman. But as a candidate for public office, he has almost no record at all - one failed primary run," said Vecera.
In his statement Wednesday, Bolling says he plans to stay actively involved in the 2013 campaigns as a more independent voice.