This will be a big week for incumbent Sen. Mark Warner (D). Warner who is facing a feisty re-election challenge, will tour the state to formally launch his campaign.
He will make a stop in Richmond on Thursday at 12:15 at 804 RVA (1657 W Broad St #3a).
Warner also released his first TV ad of the campaign. A positive ad that touts his business background and his bi-partisan work as Senator and Virginia's Governor. The ad is the first significant dip into the Democrat's prodigious campaign war chest. He has raised more than $12 million already.
Here is a look at the ad:
There is no doubt that the timing of Warner's launch is designed to coincide with the upcoming Virginia Republican Convention that will formally anoint his challenger. Most expect former Bush aide and RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie to earn that distinction, but with a few tea party challengers in the mix and an unpredictable system there are no guarantees.
The convention kicks off Saturday June 7th in Roanoke.
At this point though Warner has spent most of his time pointing to his own record. Emphasis on his "own". He has long held the distinction of being Virginia's most popular politican, based largely on his record as successful governor.
However even popular politicians serving in a very unpopular body (the U.S. Congress) run the risk of becoming vulnerable. It is that exact connection that republicans are trying to expose before they even have a formal nominee.
The GOP is working to shatter the perception of Warner as bi-partisan problem solver. Instead they are pointing out his pretty consistent democratic voting record and challenging him to stand up to President Barack Obama, who has an underwater approval rating in Virginia.
The latest attempt to put Warner on the spot is a new robo call that will drop this week to Virginia voters that asks the sitting Senator to call for an independent investigation into the Veteran's Administration health care scandal. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus says it is not enough to trust the White House to do the job themselves.
"Five years ago, President Obama said there was a problem at the VA and that he would fix it. But reports in recent months show that he failed to act and that the problems were far worse than many imagined,” Priebus said. “This is why the RNC will continue to demand accountability from the Obama administration, and we think Democrats should join in that effort. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue."
The robo call, which you can hear below, asks the person who recieves it to call Warner and demand an independent probe.
"No one has consistently fought harder than Mark Warner to make sure the VA does right by Virginia's military men and women," said Warner spokesman Kevin Hall. "During a telephone town hall with 10,000 Richmond area residents last Wednesday night, Sen. Warner said the VA scandal was 'completely unacceptable,' and 'people ought to get fired' if the upcoming inspector general's report, which is due any day now, confirms the chronic mismanagement that's been alleged.
Hall pointed to several examples of Warner taking action on the VA scandal including a push for answers after reports of problems at the Hampton Roads facility.
Perhaps even more significant is that the RNC continues to invest their resources on the campaign against Warner. Even though Gillespie is considered to be a credible candidate, Warner is still a heavy favorite. A win by the GOP here would indicate a huge wave that would give them comfortable control of the U.S. Senate.
It is a long shot they seem to be willing to take the risk on as Warner is one of only 10 democratic members of the House and Senate being targeted.
Warner however is not the type to take any sort of challenge lightly. He remains well liked, well financed and prepared to do whatever it takes to win.
This race has yet to start and for the most part we don't know for sure if it is a race at all.