Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Race of the Day- Virginia U.S. Senate

28 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (South)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

Democrats have been heartened by statewide success in the Old Dominion over the last thirteen years. While Republicans did quite well in the years of 2009 and 2010, they have lost most of the key races otherwise and many believe that changing demographics and more and more federal government employees are making Virginia far more fertile territory to Democrats.

Mark Warner has been perhaps the chief beneficiary of the Democrats' success. The wealthy businessman was elected Governor in 2001 and in the one term the state allows, he received much notice as someone to watch on the national stage. Many were quite surprised when Warner took himself out of the running for the Democrats' 2008 Presidential nomination contest, when it looked like he wanted to run. Instead, he launched a bid for an open U.S. Senate seat, where he became the instant favorite. After his election, he was seen as someone who might be very tough to beat in his next electoral endeavor. Some thought, he might seek a return to the Governorship in 2013, as part of a long-term plan to get back into the Presidential game, but instead, he decided to seek reelection to the Senate. By that time, Republicans pretty much admitted that he would be fairly safe in that contest.

Nonetheless, a somewhat surprising Republican challenger emerged in Ed Gillespie, a lobbyist and political operative, who received high marks during his tenure as a top White House aide and Chairman of the Republican National Committee during part of the George W. Bush Administration. In many ways, somewhat with that political of a background may be a tough sell to voters, but Gillespie was seen as a likable and articulate GOP voice. Terry McAuliffe, a more divisive political operative with a somewhat similar background, had also recently been elected Governor. By the time Gillespie entered the contest against Warner, Republicans had basically given up hope in giving the incumbent much of a race. Many of the recent GOP losses could be attributed to weak nominees, candidate missteps, and a divided party, but Gillespie looked like he could at least conduct himself professionally, in what would still be an uphill battle. Some on the right tried to hold out hope for the nomination at a party convention which was to pick the nominee in June, but it was clear that Gillespie had the votes and he would eventually be chosen by acclamation.

While Republicans look at so many Senate races this cycle was top opportunities to win seats, the race in Virginia has never materialized in the way that some had hoped. Warner has a sizable war chest and has won the endorsements of some Republicans, including his Senate predecessor, John Warner, a longtime Republican, to whom the current Senator is not related, but who did defeat him in a 1996 Senate race.

Polls show that Gillespie has recently made up a little bit of ground on the frontrunner, but Warner is still ahead by pretty close to double digits, if not solidly so. Gillespie will probably exit this race with his political reputation intact, but will have to face the reality of being unable to break through in a strong GOP year. His presence at the top of the ticket will at least do nothing to hurt Republicans running in down ballot Congressional races.

Virginia is less conservative and less "southern" than it is used to be for sure, and Warner's brand of politics seems acceptable enough to voters in the state to keep him in the Senate, but an open race without Warner would likely be extremely competitive. There is every reason to expect that Virginia will once again be one of the top battleground states of the 2016 Presidential election, with or without Mark Warner on the ballot.

Gillespie campaign link:


Senate races predicted thus far: 13 D (7 Safe, 2 Likely, 3 Leans, 1 Tossup), 21 R 10 Safe, 4 Likely, 4 Leans, 3 Tossup) 
Overall predicted thus far: 47 D, 51 R (net Republican gain of 7)


At 3:37 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

I have Warner winning reelection by double digits on November 4th over Gillespie:

Warner (D-inc.)-57%
Gillespie (R)-40%


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