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Ed Gillespie: Making Virginia’s Senator Mark Warner sweat

Ed Gillespie: Making Virginia’s Senator Mark Warner sweat

The YouTube video showing Ed Gillespie eviscerating Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner on ObamaCare suggests why some savvy political observers believe Gillespie will not only win the GOP nominating convention in June, but has a good shot at toppling Warner in the fall. The film is expertly crafted (revealing Gillespie’s smarts in fielding a top technical and political team) and shows the candidate knows how to land a telling political punch.

The video (see below) shows TV clips of Gillespie in 2009 and 2010 ripping into ObamaCare, insisting it is ill-conceived, costly and harmful to the supposed beneficiaries. At one point he calls ObamaCare a “monstrosity,” predicting that it’s unlikely to get better as it unfolds.  The video switches to clips of Warner   enthusiastically pitching the program and then pulling an Obama:

“Let me make clear. I’m not going to support a health-care reform plan that is going to take away the health-care plan that you have right now or a health-care plan you like.”

There’s more effective thumping of the senator, but the impact lets the viewer know that Warner could be in for a heckuva fight should Gillespie, the odds-on-favorite to capture the Republican senatorial nomination in Roanoke, emerge as his challenger.

Underdog Gillespie has also been pleasantly buoyed by a new Quinnipiac survey which reveals that only 46% of the voters would back Warner against Gillespie if the election were held today, well under the 50% figure incumbents view as necessary for reelection.  Whereas the Roanoke College poll had Warner beating Gillespie by 30 points in early March (highlighted by the pro-Warner Washington Post), the late March Quinnipiac survey has cut that margin in half.  By the Quinnipiac calculation, Warner now leads Gillespie 46 to 31 percent, with 6 percent for libertarian candidate Robert Jarvis. 15% are undecided. Gillespie is convinced he can keep chipping away at Warner’s diminishing lead.

Despite Obama’s winning the state twice and the fact that all top elected officials are in Democratic hands, Warner is considered vulnerable for a host of reasons. The Obama presidency is proving to be a big drag on Democrats across the country, primarily because of ObamaCare, Warner’s chief political liability. Even when the White House isn’t under siege, the off-year election in the president’s second term is customarily damaging for his party—and Obama is clearly under siege.   Gillespie may also benefit from what many political experts now believe could be a wave election, with Republicans recapturing the Senate and Gillespie riding the crest to victory.

Top GOP strategist, small businessman and family man Gillespie, moreover, is developing into an excellent campaigner who knows how to raise potfuls of money, get the base excited and unite the party. More than half of the GOP’s state central committee is now officially in his corner and he won, by an overwhelming 68%, the straw poll of hundreds of activists two weekends ago at a major function of the Republican party of Virginia. Gillespie is also making a serious effort to reach out to young people, Asians, Hispanics and African-Americans with his Reaganesque economic message.

He has also drawn the backing of big-name Republicans. Mitt Romney, Haley Barbour, Dick Armey, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz have lavished praise on his candidacy, with Romney having visited New York this past week to raise serious sums for his campaign.  Gillespie himself tells Human Events that he believes he will have a “good first quarter” when it comes to financing a campaign which needs about $12-$15 million for a solid chance at success.

There’s still another reason Warner is viewed as vulnerable. His reputation as a pro-business moderate during this jobless recovery has taken a hit, since he has been consistently voting the Obama line (97 % of the time, according to a CQ/Roll Call survey). Many small businessmen who have been comfortable with Warner now view him as a high-tax, big spender, who has been siding with Obama on such crucial issues as ObamaCare, taxes, energy and regulation. They note he’s even been pandering to union demands in this Right-to-Work state, backing both the minimum wage and Card Check, for instance. Two of the country’s most recognized business organizations, the National Federation of Independent Business and the US Chamber, handed him lowly 38% ratings for the 112th Congress, prompting one well connected businessman to tell HE: “Today, many of Virginia’s business leaders who had high hopes for Warner as an independent voice are, frankly, disenchanted .”

Gillespie plans to exploit Warner’s voting record in major ways.  His attack ad on ObamaCare has been his best shot so far. And he doesn’t plan to let up, noting it’s not only a bad program, but a job killer and tax raiser.  On the “most important issue in the election,” says Gillespie, “I was right and he was disastrously wrong.” Warner not only voted for ObamaCare, said Gillespie, he “whipped it,”  even organizing fellow Democratic freshmen—all of which has been documented on C-SPAN.

Virtually every important vote that Warner has cast, says Gillespie, “has killed jobs, lowered take-home pay, increased health-care costs and raised energy prices.”  Take the Keystone pipeline, which is very popular with the majority of the American people.  Most who have carefully studied the plan believe it will provide  thousands of good paying jobs, make this country far less dependent on Mideast oil, help our good neighbor, Canada, and diminish Putin’s economic hold over the countries in NATO. Even liberals like Bill Clinton and pro-Obama businessmen like Warren Buffet are in favor.But Warner, who’s loudly backing it today, flatly opposed it or put obstacles in its way on multiple occasions in 2012, even when the majority of his fellow senators and a sizable number of Democrats, including fellow Virginian Jim Webb, were enthusiastic backers.  “At best, Warner’s switch shows he’s ‘leading from behind,’” cracked a Gillespie supporter.

Gillespie has been a top political strategist for the GOP for some time.  He was the principal drafter of the Contract with America, a GOP platform that proved key to the Republicans taking over the House in 1994 for the first time in 50 years. As Republican National Chairman in 2004, he became the first in 80 years to preside over his party’s winning the White House and both houses of Congress.  In 2009, he helped guide Republican Bob McDonnell to become a very successful governor of Virginia, with McDonnell, despite a scandal, leaving office with a 55-32 positive rating.

Can he beat Warner? The stars seem aligned with the Republicans this year and the enthusiasm for Gillespie, coupled with the obvious lack of it for Warner, argues, at the least, for a sharply contested race, with the challenger poised for an upset.

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