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« NC Is New Gov Target | Blog Home Page | Dem Up In OH Open Seat »

VA GOP Set To Pick Gilmore

Virginia Republicans will hold a state convention in Richmond this weekend to choose a nominee to fight for retiring Senator John Warner's Senate seat. Delegates will choose between former Governor Jim Gilmore, who briefly ran for president this year before dropping out to pursue the Senate contest, and State Delegate Bob Marshall, with Gilmore the heavy favorite.

The winning candidate will go on to face another former governor, Mark Warner, in November. The Democrat, who left office widely popular and is credited by some with almost single-handedly reviving his party in the Commonwealth, considered a presidential bid and has even been mentioned as a vice presidential prospect, even as he seems poised to take a Senate seat back for Democrats. Warner has led Gilmore in every public poll by wide margins.

Gilmore will also face a big financial hurdle. Through the pre-convention filing deadline, on May 11, he had raised $983,000 and spent $779,000 to keep just $204,000 in the bank. Warner, on the other hand, had pulled in an astounding $6.36 million through March 31 and retained nearly $4.4 million on hand.

The state party's decision to hold a convention instead of a primary has proven beneficial to Gilmore. Without a convention, in which the universe of voters is a relatively tiny 5,000 or so, Gilmore would have faced more moderate Northern Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, who had already banked $1 million by last October. But Davis, who has arguably the best political skills of any Republican in Congress, knew he couldn't win a convention and dropped his bid.

Even if Gilmore pulls out a big win and consolidates the GOP electorate early, Warner will still be the heavy favorite. Since Warner won the governorship in 2001, just one of the state's top three elected offices has been carried by a Republican, when John Warner won his fifth term in 2002. Since then, Democrat Tim Kaine was elected to succeed Mark Warner in the governor's office in 2005 and Democrat Jim Webb upset Republican Senator George Allen in 2006.