Today, Ed Gillespie announces his intention to take a run at Mark Warner’s Senate seat next November. For those of you unfamiliar with Gillespie, here’s an introductory sketch of his career on via Wikipedia:
Edward W. Gillespie (born August 1, 1961) is an American Republican political strategist who served as the 61st Chairman of the Republican National Committee, senior advisor to Mitt Romney 2012 and former Counselor to the President in the George W. Bush White House. Gillespie, along with Jack Quinn, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Al Gore, founded Quinn Gillespie & Associates, a bipartisan lobbying firm. Gillespie is also the founder of Ed Gillespie Strategies, a strategic consulting firm that provides high-level advice to companies and CEOs, coalitions, and trade associations, and together with Karl Rove, founded Crossroads GPS.
Gillespie appears to be a sharp, talented and decent man with an imposing resume, but what aspect of his experience suggests to anyone that he’s the type of candidate an evolving Republican Party will fall behind or get excited about — much less, Virginia as a whole?
Is it his time at a high-powered K-Street lobbying firm that’s going to appeal to the soccer moms of Manassas? Rest assured, Gillespie will be spending much of his time dealing with calls to divulge and explain his client list – Enron! — followed by the kind of hyperscrutinization that, if the world were a fairer place, would have sunk a shyster like Terry McAuliffe before he even got started. Did you, Virginia, know that Acme, a corporation that handed Ed Gillespie $3 million to lobby in Washington, has received over 50 warnings from the Environmental Protection Agency? Do you, Virginia, realize that Acme, the infamous corporation that made Ed Gillespie a millionaire, paid women 39 percent less than men? Well, the jobs that Acme haven’t already outsourced to China. Ed Gillespie: betting against America – and women.
Or is Gillespie’s time at Republican National Committee defending a Republican spending explosion, two (now-) unpopular wars and George W. Bush the trick to enticing voters in Virginia? As bad as things are, the average voter doesn’t pine for the days Ed Gillespie was on TV defending the Bush administration. The average conservative voter isn’t pining for those days. It is beyond doubt that at some point Gillespie was touting the Bush economy’s long-term benefits in a way that is going to make a brutal TV ad.
And that’s a problem out of the gate. Not only is Gillespie closely tied to Karl Rove, a person who generates more vitriol from the conservatives than any liberal, but he helped start up Crossroads GPS. The base will make no distinction between Rovian groups working to undermine their influence nationally. As hard right as Gillespie will go early, and as earnest as he may even be, few activists are likely to buy it.
Voters do seem less inclined to go full partisan in gubernatorial races, where competence and management hold some sway. Which is to say that Gillespie seems better suited for that kind of political race. And as this Politico piece points out:
Conventional wisdom in Old Dominion political circles is that Gillespie is running for Senate now to position himself to run for governor in 2017. McAuliffe, like all governors, is limited to one term. And there is no clear Republican heir apparent after Ken Cuccinelli’s defeat last year.
With the unpopularity of Obama, the dissatisfaction among voters in general with incumbents and the unexpected closeness of the Cuccinelli-McAuliffe race, surrendering Virginia, though a longshot for the GOP at this point, seems a bit premature. (If the above is true.) Anyway, there must exist potential candidates whose experience and views lay somewhere in the wide expanse between irrational EW Jackson-types and candidates who’ve been dredged in the crony money and tangled relationships of K Street.