GOP strategist: Gillespie’s campaign is not powered by just Republicans and conservatives

RICHMOND, Va. — Republican Ed Gillespie heads into final week of his U.S. Senate campaign with a poll that shows the candidate leading Democrat Mark Warner by double digits among Virginia voters. National Republican…

GOP strategist: Gillespie’s campaign is not powered by just Republicans and conservatives

RICHMOND, Va. — Republican Ed Gillespie heads into final week of his U.S. Senate campaign with a poll that shows the candidate leading Democrat Mark Warner by double digits among Virginia voters.

National Republican strategists are worried. They think Democrats have more room to grow and worry that Gillespie will not bring enough help from his candidates for governor and attorney general.

The most recent public polls show McAuliffe ahead by slim margins, but the attorney general is the favorite in the early going.

There are no polls published for Gillespie, but the Cook Political Report, which tracks polls, lists Gillespie as the most likely candidate to win.

“I’m certainly going to keep my chin up,” Gillespie said Tuesday at an American Legion breakfast in Fairfax, where he planned to meet his campaign manager and press secretary in the back. “We’re going to continue to go out and make the case for why I’m the right person to be in the United States Senate.”

Gillespie is trying to expand the Virginia ballot, and, so far, he seems to be succeeding in that goal.

He said 15 percent of Virginia voters already have marked him on the ballot as the Republican Senate candidate, with a large chunk of those votes going to Republican Ken Cuccinelli for attorney general.

“I’m not the only one running a statewide race,” he said. “That gives us tremendous opportunity to maintain our share of the vote.”

National Republicans, however, have reached the same conclusion about Cuccinelli. Gillespie is not a Cuccinelli clone, they point out, with one Virginia GOP operative saying he is best suited to moderate Republicans who felt snubbed by Cuccinelli.

But Gillespie is also an unusual character for a candidate who would seem to have little to do with an extremist like Cuccinelli.

The son of a Marine, Gillespie grew up in Arlington and moved to Hampton Roads in college. He is married to a lawyer and they have three sons.

He now runs a consulting firm that has won government contracts. His grandfather was mayor of Wilmington, Del., his father chairman of the board of the Delmarva Banking and Trust Co.

Gillespie has raised money for Democrats in the past, but his voting record in Congress is conservative.

He supported spending cuts at all levels, but also wanted to chip away at federal spending on mandatory programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

While U.S. Sen. Jim Webb was running for president, his campaign funded the Gillespie family home. The family has friends in Washington.

The Washington Post reported last year that Gillespie was going to serve as chief of staff to Webb in 2000, but withdrew to enter politics.

Even so, Gillespie is not universally loved. He has become a lightning rod for attacks from the left and was critical of President Barack Obama in 2012, even though he backed the Democratic nominee in his primary race.

He has seen Democrats take aim at his record.

Last week, Democratic super PAC the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released an ad that charged Gillespie with having ties to Christian fundamentalists, the National Rifle Association and foreign interests, all of which Gillespie denies.

Gillespie said the attacks reflect a Democratic fear of competition and pointed out that the DSCC has spent money in unsuccessful races across the country this year.

“People saw my opponent as a potential curse,” Gillespie said. “I’m a curse, but I’m not a non-factor.”

(See Dan Chung’s interview with Gillespie on Richmond Biz Talk.)

Gillespie will remain at home in Fairfax.

This article is written by Dan Chung from The Washington Post and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

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