Politico’s James Hohmann braved the weather this weekend, and it paid off. He was able to break the news that former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie “is considering a run against Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D) next year.”
Gillespie is widely respected, and — should he enter the race — would immediately be a serious contender to win what would then be considered a competitive race.
But it is worth remembering that Gillespie was formerly chairman of the Virginia Republican Party — a post from which he resigned after just six short months in order to serve as a counselor to President George W. Bush.
Here’s something I wrote about it in 2007, just before he departed:
“Should he choose to leave his post as VA GOP Chairman (a position he has only held for about six months), Gillespie would be in danger of angering VA grassroots conservatives — and closing the door on a future in Virginia. (Some have speculated that Gillespie’s election to VA GOP Chairman was either, 1. A way to keep his friend, George Allen, in the game, or 2. A way for Gillespie to prepare for his own Senate campaign.)”
I concluded thusly: “My advice would be to stay put. No matter how tempting or flattering the offer, Gillespie already has Bush credentials. And staying put would show character and commitment.”
Gillespie is utterly likable — and that’s just one of the reasons this probably won’t be a big deal. He is seen as reasonable by moderates, yet acceptable to movement conservatives. In other words, he is temperamentally moderate and philosophically conservative. Additionally, because of his establishment bonafides, Gillespie will surely be able to raise copious amounts of money. And post-2013, all of these things will be seen as especially attractive qualities to Republicans who want to win a Senate race in the commonwealth.
What is more, it’s not like Gillespie left his post to go play golf. When the president asks you to help him, it’s hard to turn that down. And since Republican Bob McDonnell went on to become governor in 2009, it’s hard to accuse Gillespie of having let the party down by leaving prematurely.
For all these reasons, my guess is there is enough water under the bridge that most Virginia Republicans will let bygones be bygones. But don’t be surprised if this pops up during a convention fight.
UPDATE: Not only did McDonnell win in ’09, but Gillespie was general chairman of his campaign.