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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Is Mark Warner Vulnerable

Conventional wisdom has it that U.S. Senator and former Virginia Governor Mark Warner is one of the safer senators seeking re-election this year.  He is personally popular in Virginia, left office as a popular Governor and was overwhelmingly elected in the 2008 tidal wave that swept Democrats into control of the entire federal government.  Until 2013, he did all he could to at least keep the NRA from endorsing any of his opponents (they made no endorsement in the 2001 election when Warner was elected governor and in 2008 both Warner and former Governor Jim Gilmore received "A" ratings but no endorsement).

Then, in 2012, Newtown happened and Warner was heard distancing himself from Virginia gun owners and NRA members, and when given the chance to say exactly what he was for and against, he could not quite do it.. In the end, in April of 2013, Warner voted for the Manchin/Schumer/Toomey criminalization of private firearm sales but voted against Diane Feinstein's amendment to renew the so-called "Assault Weapons" ban, and voted against Frank Lautenberg's ban on so-called "high capacity" ammunition magazines.

Up until now, only a couple of unknowns with very little experience had come out of the woodwork to challenge Warner as he gears up for re-election this year.  He has raised gobs of money and has gobs more in his personal fortune.  But columnist Marc Theissen suggests that if former RNC Chairman and lobbyist Ed Gillespie ends up throwing his hat in the ring, Warner may not have the easy campaign he had originally expected:
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is in a lot more trouble than it seems. Despite his ample war chest and approval ratings, only 50 percent of Virginians say Warner should get a second term. And independents, by a margin of 49 to 43 percent, say they would rather have someone new in Virginia’s Senate seat.
A candidate like Gillespie will also likely hound Warner on the fact that he was a deciding vote in the passage of Obamacare, which continues to be even more unpopular with each passing day. And last month, former Virginia Democratic Chairman Paul Goldman and Conservative Blogger Norm Leahy noted how the election of Terry McAuliffe could be Warner's worst nightmare.
Our hunch: He learned that voters are surprised when told of Warner’s support for Obamacare. That vote is a huge liability right now among the Virginians whom Gillespie needs to attract to be more than a sacrificial lamb. And should he run, it would mean a major national GOP guru is betting he can use Obamacare to bring someone of Warner’s stature down.
Warner is already trying to tar Gillespie with the "high paid lobbyist" label, but as The Hill notes, with McAuliffe's election, that may not work.

Most bets will still be on a Warner victory in November.  But, if the Virginia GOP does not commit suicide at it's nominating convention this spring, and instead goes with a nominee that can at least match Warner's ability to raise money and make it a credible race, if the voter mood remains what it it now, Warner may find himself in the fight of his life.

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