The announcement of Ed Gillespie’s Senate campaign will give the race in Virginia a national spotlight in 2014. If Gillespie wins the nomination at the Republican Convention held in Roanoke, Virginia, in June, he will face off against Mark Warner (D-VA) in November. The announcement will make this race one of the largest and most expensive of 2014.
Gillespie, former Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman, embarked on his campaign by proclaiming the American Dream and ensuring his fight against Obamacare and the incumbent’s stance on federal spending. In his debut to Virginians, Gillespie said, “If elected, I’ll be a servant of the people of Virginia.” He fervently emphasized that he will be a leader for policies that will help the middle class prosper and that he will ensure to foster upward mobility to the less-affluent to climb out of poverty.
His American Dream proclamation stems from how his father, an immigrant from Ireland, came to America in search of a better future. “I’m running for Senate because the American Dream is being undermined by policies that move us away from constitutional principles of limited government and personal liberty,” he said. His early campaign statements run parallel to the core beliefs upon which most conservative Republicans articulate policy. Gillespie can create a large following under the ideological premises of the Tea Party and other conservative Republicans. Running against one of Virginia’s most-liked politicians will undoubtedly thrust Gillespie’s Senate campaign into the national spotlight.
Although Gillespie’s campaign website was launched in a low-key fashion, even before his campaign messages could hit internet traffic, the Senate Democrats’ campaign committee began launching its own counter-offensive. Matt Canter, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman said, “When Virginians get to know Ed Gillespie, they won’t like what they see.”
Gillespie’s unfavorable mentions from Democrats include his lobbying for Enron and his tenure as White House Political Adviser to President George W. Bush. As well, the opposition is also pinpointing at his support of a comprehensive immigration overhaul with a path to citizenship. While the Senate Democrats’ campaign committee is drawing a clear line in the sand between left and right politics, the news is also unfavorable to Tea Party Republicans.
The onset of the midterm elections in 2010 ignited a fire within the more conservative Republican base, thereby leading to a Tea Party takeover of the House in Congress. By in large, this was attributed to an ideological shift back to the fundamental basis upon which this nation was born. Tea Party Republicans want to see candidates that are in favor of small government, decreasing federal spending, and cutting the national deficit. While at first, he may not seem as the ideal right-wing conservative candidate, Gillespie can put his decades experience and political quick wit to work against the opposition. One of Gillespie’s advisers said, “There’s a big opportunity in showing people his record isn’t what they think it is.”
Although this is his first attempt at an elected position, Gillespie has had experience in creating a strategy against Democratic policy. Gillespie served as senior adviser to President Bush and to Mitt Romney in his presidential campaign. The career political strategist is also the co-founder of American Crossroads GPS, which is well-versed in raising large amounts of political funds.
Gillespie stated that the way in which he can defeat Warner is by highlighting his support for Obamacare. Warner, a moderate and popular governor, will be reinforcing his support of President Obama’s signature healthcare reform and his federal stimulus plans.
While the President is beginning to lose support of moderate Democrats on the basis of Obamacare, Gillespie may be able to pull in the support of Democratic moderates. The moderates for which Gillespie will be vying are those in Northern Virginia, who carried Obama in 2008 and 2012.
Virginia, the new swing state in politics, will be on the national stage in 2014 as the Senate race begins. The historically red state will be the first test for the Republican mission to take back the Democrat-controlled Senate. First, Gillespie must first pass the convention, which is dominated by party activists. Two other GOP candidates have already announced their bids: Shak Hill and Howie Lind. However, both are relatively unknown in Virginia politics.
This race will be one to watch. Mark Warner is one of the most popular politicians in the country. Last year, a Quinnipiac Poll rated him at a favorable 61 percent. Nonetheless, Gillespie, though claiming he’s the underdog, believes this race is winnable. As opposition to liberal policy grows stronger, Tea Party politics will come to the forefront of congressional and Senate races this year. Tea Party support will be out in full force to bring the swing state of Virginia back to the “right” side of the rank-and-file. Adviser to Warner, Kevin Hall, stated that regarding the race against Gillespie, “Mark Warner will be prepared for whomever the Tea Party nominates.” Since this is the first time in decades that the top political seats in Virginia are all inhabited by Democrats, Ed Gillespie’s Senate campaign will put Virginia in the national spotlight.
Editorial By: Alex Lemieux