Washington Secrets

Ex-GOP Chair Ed Gillespie building support for Va. Senate run

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Republican Party,Terry McAuliffe,Ken Cuccinelli,2014 Elections,Campaigns,George W. Bush,Bob McDonnell

Ed Gillespie, a former top aide to President George W. Bush who chaired both the Republican National Committee and Virginia GOP, is quietly building support for a 2014 bid against Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, according those he's reached out to.

“He’s called a few of us,” said state Sen. Bryce Reeves, who chairs the influential Senate Republican Caucus Campaign. “I think he’s in,” Reeves said, adding, “Ed is an excellent candidate for the office.”

Reeves and others said that Gillespie is focused on building enough support to win the nomination at a summer Republican Convention where the Tea Party has been a big force in the past. There are two Tea Party candidates already in the primary.

A key conservative strategist close to Gillespie also told Secrets Friday that "he is in serious consideration phase."

Should Gillespie win the nomination, his will likely be an uphill fight. While Gillespie has deep ties to the state GOP, having chaired Gov. Bob McDonnell’s campaign, some conservatives are wary of nominating a former Republican National Committee chairman who has never run for office before.

Warner is a former governor and first term senator, giving him two statewide wins.

Gillespie is likely to make his campaign against Warner a national one. In a statement he slapped the Democrat for backing Obamacare and President Obama. “He's voted with President Obama 97 percent of the time since he got elected with him in 2008,” said Gillespie.

While he should be able to raise enough money to run, analysts said that Warner will be heavily favored. In fact, Kyle Kondik, managing editor of the University of Virginia Center for Politics' “Crystal Ball,” said that Gillespie might be trying to follow the model of Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic Party boss who beat Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in this fall's goubernatorial race.

“I just don’t think Gillespie is actually going to run, and if he does, maybe we move it to ‘Likely Democratic.’ But that’s probably it,” said Kondik. “Gillespie might be looking at McAuliffe and saying, ‘Hey, I can do that too, but Cuccinelli is not Mark Warner.’”

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.
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