In the hours before Republicans may retake the Senate, controlling both houses of Congress for the first time since 2006, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner may be positioned to counter the national narrative, defending his seat from GOP momentum.
Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, just released his final Crystal Ball picks for U.S. Senate, keeping Virginia “likely blue” in a sea of red, along with several Democratic to Republican seat changes.
Even if Gillespie comes up short, a single digit difference between the two candidates could propel Gillespie into the national spotlight once again.
The former Republican National Committee chairman would have accomplished a tight race with a relatively few contributions coming from out-of-state groups, a situation that prompted Gillespie to lend his own campaign $435,000 in the final days of the race.
Right now, according to the Wason Center’s final statewide survey of likely voters before Election Day 2014, Warner leads Gillespie, 51% to 44%, with 3% undecided. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.4%.
It is unlikely either candidate will capture all undecided voters, and the Warner Campaign contends the numbers reveal the democrat has sealed his path to victory.
VOX was the only firm to show former U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor struggling in the days before his historic loss to Randolph-Macon professor Dave Brat.
Depending on the final margin, Gillespie may signal to Virginia voters on Election Night that his fight has just begun, positioning him to run for governor in 2017.
Another area to watch is where exactly Warner wins, and can he hold on to some municipalities in the southern section of the Commonwealth?
Southwest Virginia was where Warner grew a substantial power base when he ran for governor in 2001. The Senator also prides himself on appealing to people across Virginia, from the Beltway to Buffalo Junction.
But maintaining a historic level of high popularity has not been easy, with widespread disapproval of President Obama across much of rural Virginia.
As Washington Post reporters Jenna Portnoy and Rachel Weiner note, voters in Southwestern Virginia have replaced all state Democratic lawmakers with Republicans in the six years since Warner won his 2008 U.S. Senate race.
The maps showing the Republican and Democratic breakdown of Warner’s 2008 race, followed by the 2012 U.S. Senate Race and 2013 Governor’s Race show dramatic differences from Warner’s first successful campaign for Senate.
2008 U.S. Senate Race, Blue: Warner, Red: Gilmore
Maps are courtesy of the Virginia Public Access Project, with their visualizations available here.
I will be covering the Warner campaign for NBC12 from Crystal City, beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Laura Geller will be live from the Gillespie Campaign in Springfield.
AND – If you need to know who will be on your ballot before you walk into the voting booth, we’re here to help. Visit this site from the Virginia Department of Elections, simply put in your information, hit “next”, and then scroll down to “My Ballot.”