GOP's Gillespie Playing Long Game in Senate Race

Image: GOP's Gillespie Playing Long Game in Senate Race (Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

Wednesday, 03 Sep 2014 07:02 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Political-operative-turned-candidate Ed Gillespie may not overcome Democratic Sen. Mark Warner's 25-point lead in the Virginia race for the U.S. Senate, but his transition is part of a long-term game plan, The Washington Post reported.

"No one ever goes into the race saying, 'I'm going to lose.' Often, you learn lessons," said Ed Rollins, a strategist for Ronald Reagan. "Ed has always had the ambition to do something big in Virginia. Whether he makes it this time or next time, he's going to be senator or governor one day," the Post reported.

Many a political career began out of the limelight.

Gillespie is one of a number of operatives who have switched from advising to becoming the candidate. For instance, the state's Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe is former chairman of the Democratic National Committee who didn't make it past the primary in his first bid at elective office.

Warner, the incumbent senator, managed Douglas Wilder's 1989 gubernatorial campaign. Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton worked on the 1972 George McGovern presidential campaign. Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland worked on Gary Hart's campaign in the 1980s. Dick Cheney worked in the Nixon and Ford White House before becoming George W. Bush's vice president. And Haley Barbour was an seasoned operative prior to becoming Mississippi governor, the Post reported.

"Gillespie has much to gain even if he loses," according to the Post. He would become the Virginia GOP's de facto leader, tasked with trying to unite establishment moderates and grass-roots conservatives. He would also be positioned to run in 2017 for governor.

Political scientist Bob Holsworth says operatives know not to take losing personally making them more resilient as candidates, according to the Post.

Gillespie says he likes his new role. "This may sound a little odd to you, but what surprises me is how much I love being the candidate."

He has also run a mainly positive campaign, shunning negative ads.

Political scientist Quentin Kidd says: "You've got to come out the other end with people saying, 'He ran a solid campaign; he's a good guy.' You can't come out the other end saying, 'He came close, but, man, was that nasty'," the Post reported.


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