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Surprise: Ed Gillespie beating Mark Warner among independents, Hispanics

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Virginia,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Obamacare,Medicare and Medicaid,Polls,Ed Gillespie,Mark Warner,Hispanics

He hasn't yet won the Virginia Republican Senate nomination yet, but front-running candidate Ed Gillespie is leading incumbent Sen. Mark Warner among independents and Hispanics, the first sign of a chink in the Democrat's armor.

According to Democratic pollster PPP, Warner overall leads Gillespie 49 percent to 35 percent. But among independents, key to President Obama's victories in the Old Dominion, Gillespie leads 41 percent to 39 percent, and he has the edge among Hispanics, 39 percent to 34 percent.

What's more, Virginia voters appear mixed on expanding Medicaid under Obamacare. Although they back the idea 49 percent to 43 percent, when asked if Warner's support makes them more likely to vote for him, just 40 percent said yes, 36 percent said it would make them less likely to do so and 21 percent said it would make no difference.

The Gillespie campaign believes that the Medicaid issue offers them an opening against Warner. “Mark Warner is feeling the ripple effects of Medicaid Expansion -- and there is room for Ed Gillespie to move in,” said pollster Glen Bolger in a memo.

“The political environment continues to look bleak for Senator Mark Warner,” he added in a review of the PPP polling. “He is struggling on the ballot among several key midterm groups versus a challenger who is not yet well-known.”

But top officials at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee scoffed and charged that Gillespie is trying to spin his way out of the larger headline that he's trailing Warner by 14 points in the matchup. “I encourage Ed Gillespie to continue touting polls that show him losing by double digits,” said DSCC spokesman Justin Barasky.

What’s more, the polling done for MoveOn.org to gauge support for Obamacare showed Warner winning women 54 percent to 27 percent, older Virginians by double digits and white voters by 10 points. He has also shored up his base, with 85 percent of Democrats backing Warner compared to 59 percent of Republicans supporting Gillespie.

For his part, Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and counselor to former President George W. Bush, has been quietly moving through Virginia, meeting with Republicans, independents and Tea Party activists to shore up support for his candidacy at a June 7 convention. He is expected to win easily and at that point plans a nonstop, statewide campaign.

He has focused heavily on outreach in his convention effort, even helping Republicans eager to register for the June event to get their forms in on time. In one case, a supporter tweeted his concerns about getting forms in to Gillespie's account. With in 90 minutes, Gillespie's team had dispatched a top aide to pick it up.

Chris Gaskill tweeted his thanks. “@EdForSenate had someone @ my house about an hour from 1st tweet to pick up filing form. Great ground game! Appreciate it.”

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