Former lobbyist and Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie is weighing whether to mount a challenge to Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, of Virginia, who is highly popular heading into his re-election campaign next year.
Warner, with approval ratings around 60 percent and nearly $6 million in the bank as of October, enters 2014 positioned strongly enough that national Republicans have so far not considered him vulnerable.
But Gillespie, who said Monday he has "heard from many friends from across Virginia urging me to run," would instantly have at his disposal a formidable network of donors, politicians and Republican operatives to help boost his bid.
Gillespie will need to decide by Feb. 1, but said Monday that Republicans would surely win back control of the Senate were they to win in Virginia — making the race one worth watching.
"Mark Warner’s not turned out to be the senator so many Virginians thought he would be," Gillespie said. "I’m going to take some time to talk with fellow Virginia Republicans about how we best win this pivotal Senate seat and, of course, with my own family, who come ahead of politics."
Spokespersons for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the official campaign arms of both parties, declined to comment on the record.
Should Gillespie jump into the race, he would be following closely the path of his political mentor, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who was a prominent lobbyist and, later, RNC chairman before he ran for governor in 2003 and won. Gillespie was a co-founder of the mega-lobbying firm Quinn Gillespie and Associates, now QGA Public Affairs.
Gillespie has also was an adviser to then-President George W. Bush, and as a senior adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.
Incidentally, Virginia Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., each chaired the Democratic National Committee, which would make for a national-committee-trifecta of sorts were Gillespie to win Warner's Senate seat.