In his first week as the official Republican nominee to challenge Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie is raising the stakes in the election and claiming that his victory would be the one to put the GOP in control of the Senate.
“When we win here, it will have an impact, not only for our commonwealth, but for our country,” he told a group of supporters in Opequon, Va., outside of Winchester and 80 miles from Washington, late Monday. “Because not only will Mark Warner be a former senator from Virginia, but Harry Reid will become the former Senate majority leader,” he added.
Gillespie, who has never held elective office, is promising to overturn Obamacare and put into place economic policies to double the growth rate in the nation. He charged that the President Obama has let the economy stagnate to the point where it's being described as the “new normal.”
Standing in front of an aging recreational vehicle wrapped with his logo and decorated with signatures from supporters, the former Bush White House aide said, “The new normal is the old mediocre and we can do better. The weak economy is not a matter of fate. It's the result of President Obama's job killing policies.”
He also accused Obama, Warner and the Democrats of doing nothing to add jobs and killing the American spirit.
Accompanied by prominent local state Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel and state Del. Barbara Comstock, who is leading in the race to replace retiring Rep. Frank Wolf, Gillespie said, “It’s not just that they are destroying jobs, it’s that they are destroying the American work ethic. And we understand that there is not just economic value in labor, there’s human dignity in work and we need more Americans to experience that dignity.”
Turning his attention to Warner, he charged that the senator has voted with President Obama 97 percent of the time. Looking at Cathy Gillespie, his wife of 27 years, he said, “I’ve got to tell you, we don’t agree with each other 97 percent of the time.”
Democrats say that they are confident of re-electing the popular Warner and plan to portray Gillespie as a a big-time lobbyist who has never been elected.
But Gillespie, who won the GOP nomination last weekend, is approaching the race with a well-funded and professional campaign. And his outsider status may help in a state where Obama and Obamacare are dropping in popularity.
Newly elected state Del. Dave LaRock, a home builder backed by the Tea Party, said it helped him beat a Republican incumbent. “I think it was a big advantage to have fresh ideas,” he said. “Being an incumbent was not a strength and I hope that's the case with Ed as well,” he added.
Should Gillespie win, many pundits agree that it would be a sign of a resurgent Republican Party, and the end of Democratic control of the Senate.
“If Gillespie wins the Virginia Senate race he’ll be part of a GOP majority, barring an unforeseen fluke. To turn around a common phrase, a Gillespie win in Virginia would be sufficient but not necessary for a Republican Senate majority,” said Kyle Kondik with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.