Gillespie likely to enter senate race
Republican strategist could challenge Democratic incumbent Warner in 2015
The New York Times reported Thursday that Republican strategist Ed Gillespie will likely challenge incumbent Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., in 2014. The news brought heightened focus to an election Warner had been widely predicted by analysts to win handedly.
As a former Republican National Committee head and Bush White House aid, Gillespie is the biggest Republican to enter the race thus far. Two other GOP candidates, Howie Lind and Shak Hill, have already announced campaigns for the Republican nomination.
Though Gillespie’s prominence makes him the most significant contender yet, analysts still consider Warner the likely winner, Center for Politics spokesperson Geoffrey Skelley said. Politics Prof. Larry Sabato’s political prediction website Sabato’s Crystal Ball changed the status of the race from “Safe Democratic” to “Likely Democratic” in a Jan. 10 post.
“One reason why Warner will be difficult to be beat, beside the fact that he’s the most popular politician in the state, is that he has an incredibly large war chest of money,” Skelley said. “The way we look at is on the face it’s unlikely that Gillespie will win, but if he does it’s a sign that 2014 is a Republican wave year and things are really going the Republican’s way. You’re going to have to see the President sink lower in approval than he already is.”
Democratic strategists have negatively characterized Gillespie as a Washington insider, while Republicans criticize Warner for consistently endorsing legislation proposed by President Obama, especially the Affordable Care Act.
“I expect Warner will walk a fine line between supporting the basic tenets of the Affordable Care Act and goal of act itself while criticizing its implementation,” Skelley said.
As long as another Republican powerhouse stays out of the race, Skelley said it is likely that Gillespie will be nominated at the June convention.