Sunday, September 13, 2020

Race of the Day- Virginia U.S. Senate

Virginia U.S. Senate

51 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (South)

Outlook: Safe Democrat

At the least, Virginia Republicans can be assured that they have selected a candidate that will not embarrass the party nearly as much as the 2018 nominee, a controversial former local official whom could also be accurately pegged as a proud Neo-Confederate. Nonetheless, this year, they may be defeated by an incumbent Democrat Senator by an even larger margin than the 18 point defeat two years ago. This has most to do with what is anticipated to be a larger turnout during a Presidential year. Also, every year, the Commonwealth seems to get more Democrat. It used to be a very competitive state with a lean towards Republicans but the increase of upscale suburbanites, many of whom work for for the federal government have shifted the state to the left. Not long ago, all three state government elected Democrat officials became engulfed in controversy, and Republicans suddenly became giddy about Old Dominion opportunity, but all three men are still in office, and it is doubtful that their issues will be on the minds of many swing voters this November.

As a young man, active in Democrat politics, Mark Warner became very rich at the early days of the cellphone technology business. In 1996, he ran for office against Republican Senator John Warner, to whom he was not related, and put up a far bigger fight than anyone had foretasted in defeat. The Democrat stayed active in politics and impressively won a solid victory for Governor in 2001, very soon after the 9/11 attacks and supposed advantage for Republicans.

Towards the end of his four years, Warner was a very popular Governor, but not eligible to seek a second consecutive term. Many were looking for him to prepare to fun for President in 2008 where he was thought of as the kind of candidate who could win large number of crossover votes. This caused a good deal of surprise when he said he would not be among the candidates citing unspecified family reasons. Months later though, he entered an open U.S. Senate race and easily defeated a former Republican Governor. Warner's reelection effort in 2014 was supposed to be a cakewalk, but there was a strong midterm tide, nationally and in Virginia, and he took the race for granted to some extent. Nonetheless, after trailing in the returns virtually all night, he hung on to win 49-48.

Then, Donald Trump took over the Republican Party and the fortune of Virginia Republicans took a hit. The same candidate who nearly beat the Senator in 2015 lost by nine points in a race for Governor, after being tied to Trump. Warner has gotten more national attention of late as the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee dealing with all sorts of allegations related to the Trump Administration.

As Warner seeks a third term, few Republicans think they have a any sort of chance. For a time, it looked like Scott Taylor, a freshman Congressman, who was unseated in 2018 would run statewide, but he decided instead to attempt to take his House seat back. The June primary would see three basically unknown Republicans compete and the winner with 67 percent was the person considered the most "mainstream" of the contenders. This was quite a difference from the 2018 primary. Daniel Gade, a college professor, and former Army officer, who lost his leg in the Iraq War was chosen with teacher Alissa Baldwin, the runner up with just 18 percent. After his war injury, Gade has been very involved in Iron Man type competitions.

As the GOP nominee, Gade is severely underfunded compared to his opponent and likely still struggling with name recognition. The West Point graduate had served in the Bush Administration and is also a Ph.D. In 2017 had been nominated by Trump to a government position but withdrew under some blowback. Back in 2011, Gade had commented online that it was a bad idea for women to serve in military combat. He said he has since changed his mind.

In looking at Gade's Senate campaign website, he is running as a mainstream conservative and trying to contrast himself with Warner. I see absolutely no mention of Donald Trump though anywhere I looked on the pages. Much of that might have to do with the political situation on the ground in Virginia, but even in more liberal states, Republican candidates have tried to cozy up to Trump. For whatever reason, that does not seem to be the case here. It does appear that Gade has a more libertarian approach to foreign policy matters than many conservative "hawks" traditionally avow.

Perhaps it should be kept in mind that as an amputee from a war Donald Trump says he opposed, he would think of a hero like Lt. Col. Gade as a "loser" or "sucker." Trump says that nobody wants to see people with one leg but I hope someone like Gade will at least have a chance to have a voice moving forward in the Republican Party.

U.S. Senate races predicted thus far:

16 D (7 Safe, 3 Likely, 3 Lean, 3 Tossup) 
17 R (6 Safe, 4 Likely, 5 Lean, 2 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

51 Democrats (35 holdovers, 7 Safe, 3 Likely, 3 Lean, 3 Tossup)
47 Republicans (30 holdovers, 6 Safe, 4 Likely, 5 Lean, 2 Tossup)


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