Former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie is playing it safe in the run up to his heated race for U.S. Senate against incumbent Mark Warner (D).
As the candidate dips his toe into a full blown campaign, he is sticking to talking points as he wades through a convention challenge leading up to the fall campaign.
Gillespie chose NBC12 as his first live local television interview and we got the chance to press him on some of the key issues voters will be using to make their choice in not only November but in the convention in June.
We asked him about the role of the Tea Party in his campaign, his thoughts on immigration reform and how he would vote on the proposed House Budget authored by former Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan.
You can see the full interview below:
Would he vote YES or NO on the Ryan Budget?- "There are things in Paul Ryan's plan that I think are good, there are things I would have some concerns about, but I think the most important thing is that he puts us on a path to a balanced budget."
He never gave us a Yes or N0, but it seems from his answer that he is not fully supportive of the plan in his current form. He attempted to use the question as a way to wrap the current Senate from avoiding presenting a budget of their own.
Would he support a path to citizenship as part of immigration reform? "I think we do need to come to terms with some form of legal status. But I think the people who have come here legally and played by the rules it wouldn't be fair to them to confer citizenship on people who have not done that. But I do think it is unlikely that we are going to have a mass deportation of some 10-12 million people."
Immigration is always a sticky issue for Republicans in particular. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) who is mulling a run for president ran into heat from the party's right wing for suggesting that some who enter the country illegally do so out of an "act of love". The controversy is not reserved to national members of the GOP. The Republican Party of Virginia's new Executive Director took all kinds of heat from immigration reform foes for taking a meeting with pro-immigration reform advocates.
Gillespie is trying to walk a fine line. Deal with the reality that is 15-20 million illegal immigrants, but stop short of offering full citizenship and instead create a new class of "legal status". We will see how that plays with the party hard- cores.
..speaking of the party hard-cores
Will the Tea Party play a role in his campaign? "We have the same concerns about the direction of the country. There is too much spending, too much government intrustion into our ecomony, too much debt, not enough in terms of our personal freedoms."
Gillespie used the Tea Party question as a way to tie Warner to Obamacare. Judging by the answer he is hoping Tea Party folks will support his campaign in big numbers.
This is just the beginning of a long campaign. We will have plenty of time to get this new candidate's take on a whole host of issues.