Mark Warner likely to face serious challenge

Politico reports that Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman, is likely to jump into the Virginia Senate race later this month. The Senate seat in question is held by Mark Warner, Virginia’s popular former governor.

Gillespie is a shrewd guy with no interest in a quixotic bid for office. The fact that he is seriously considering a run tells me that Warner’s hold on the seat isn’t safe.

Presumably, Gillespie is seeing approximately the same poll numbers that Warner sees. Michael Barone has inferred, based on Warner’s sudden recent efforts to pose as a moderate, that Warner has seen “bad poll numbers.” Barone defines bad poll numbers in this context as Warner “running significantly below 50 percent against a lesser-known challenger running farther behind.”

If he runs, Gillespie will not be handed the nomination on a silver platter. One potential candidate, State Sen. Jeff McWaters, is eschewing a run to make way for Gillespie. However, at least two other candidates are already in the race.

The nominee will be picked at a June convention, rather than in a primary. This selection method tends to empower activists, among whom an establishment figure like Gillespie may not be popular.

But as McWaters says, “if you can’t get 1,500 or 2,000 raging fans to Roanoke, Va., for a night and a day, then you probably can’t beat Mark Warner anyway.”

I stand by my assessment that Warner will be reelected unless 2014 turns out to be a pro-Republican wave election of the order of magnitude of 1994 and 2010. It is too early for me to assess whether 2014 will turn out that way.

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