Virginia Senate Race: Enter Gillespie

5853636358_5c56fc6a63_bEd Gillespie has already shaken up the 2014 US Senate midterm elections with a candidacy less than two days old. The 52-year-old former Republican National Committee Chairman entered the Virginia race to challenge Sen. Mark Warner (D) yesterday with a YouTube video announcement, changing what was previously an easy path to reelection for Warner into a far more interesting race.

Gillespie is perhaps the most successful political operative in modern Virginia Republican history having chaired the Republican Party of Virginia and Bob McDonnell’s campaign for Governor since leaving the RNC. He was also a senior adviser in the George W. Bush administration and currently holds leadership positions at several major national PACs, most recently as Chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee, a post he resigned Wednesday to officially launch his campaign.

When it became news last week that Gillespie was likely to challenge Warner, Larry Sabato immediately changed the status of the race from Safe D to Likely D. Gillespie’s candidacy and expected victory at the Republican state convention in June will make for a race filled with emotion for Virginia Republicans who do not hold a single statewide office for the first time since 1969.

Warner’s campaign took no time in attacking Gillespie as a Washington insider, a move that some would say shows that the former Governor and first term Senator is now on high alert and will have to fight to be reelected. Republicans view Warner as a popular moderate governor who has transformed into a liberal Senator who has done nothing to aid the Commonwealth since his election in 2008. The task at hand will be to expose that to the voters in Virginia.

The nation is beginning to feel the effects of the Affordable Care Act. Warner, who cast the filibuster proof vote for the law and championed PolitiFact’s lie of the year that “if you like your insurance, you can keep it” can be defeated if Republicans unite behind Gillespie and run a positive, issues based campaign.

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Follow Wes Fisher on Twitter at @WesFisherVA.

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