Last night, Virginia’s Republican lieutenant governor, Bill Bolling, dropped out of the Republican primary race for governor. The story, which you can read here, is a big deal in its own right, because it means that the state’s conservative attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, is a lock for the nomination.

What really stood out for me in Bolling’s statement about dropping out of the race was this — which our own Steve Contorno noticed:

“While it may have been in my self-interest to have continued the campaign and done my best to win without regard to the consequences of those actions, I have never chosen to place my self-interest ahead of our Party’s best interest, and I will not do so now.

I noticed it because, well, who says things like that — “I always put my party first?” But he said it. My interpretation was that he’d rather not have a divisive primary that hurts the party ahead of the election.

So imagine my surprise to see this from the Washington Post. It is based on another part of exactly the same emailed statement I quoted from above:

Is Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling really bowing out of the Virginia governor’s race — or simply changing gears to run as an independent?

The wording of the statement Bolling issued via e-mail Wednesday has some political watchers wondering. One of them said the lieutenant governor hinted at a potential third-party bid on the phone Wednesday.

Bolling’s statement doesn’t say he is suspending his campaign for governor, just his “campaign for the Republican Party’s nomination for Governor of Virginia.”

“I intend to remain actively involved in the 2013 campaigns – perhaps not as the Republican nominee for Governor, but as a more independent voice, making certain that the candidates keep their focus on the important issues facing our state and offer a positive and realistic vision for effectively and responsibly leading Virginia,” Bolling said in his statement.

Within minutes, NRO’s Jim Geraghty presented a decent argument that this was highly unlikely. Well, yeah, it is, but mainly because Bolling’s statement completely rules it out. Maybe he really is planning a third-party bid, but if he is, he probably shouldn’t have said, “I have never chosen to place my self-interest ahead of our Party’s best interest, and I will not do so now.”

Bolling’s advisor, Boyd Marcus, is quoted in the Post’s item. He doesn’t deny the breathless speculation, but I kind of suspect he is just having some fun and keeping Bolling’s name in the news cycle for a few hours.

The Post’s item fails to make any mention of the quote I excerpted above. Am I crazy for thinking that this rumor started because someone just didn’t read that far down? I admit, it’s probably one of the longest press releases I’ve ever seen.