Ed Gillespie has not officially launched a campaign for the U.S. Senate in Virginia, but on Monday he was blindsided by an attack on his past conservatism ahead of a likely announcement this week.
A long list of opposition research was sent to reporters on Gillespie, arguing the veteran Republican will have issues with conservative voters on things like the health insurance mandates in Obamacare.
“Ed Gillespie is out of step with Tea Party Republicans,” the attack read.
But don’t be fooled. The attack wasn’t launched from the right. It slyly came from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
The early attack from the Senate Democratic campaign arm means one thing: they fear the prospect of Gillespie winning the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Democrat Mark Warner in 2014.
Two other little-known Republicans have announced campaigns for the race, but are not seen as being capable of mounting a serious challenge to the popular Warner. An entrance into the race by Gillespie — a former George W. Bush and Mitt Romney aide who could raise large sums of campaign cash — likely changes that.
The strategists at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have decided that the best way to harm Gillespie, who once founded a bipartisan lobbying firm, is to try to stop him from winning the GOP nomination. They plan to do this by trying to give him problems with the right.
“The GOP establishment and DC insiders are very comfortable with lobbyist Ed Gillespie, but rank-and-file Virginia Republicans won’t feel the same way when they learn about his record,” said Justin Barasky, a spokesman at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
The attacks on Gillespie’s record could signal what is to come in a Republican nominating contest, though there are holes in the attacks.
Democrats are using several things to argue Gillespie once supported an individual mandate, though he has rebutted the attacks before. The DSCC pointed out that Gillespie wrote in his 2006 book that, when it comes to health insurance, “every emancipated adult” should be “capable of providing for his or her health care” and one “way to accomplish this is to use the tax code to gain compliance.”
Talking to the Washington Examiner recently, Gillespie defended himself from these attacks, saying he has never argued for an individual mandate.
The DSCC makes an issue out of the fact that Gillespie’s old firm lobbied on behalf of The Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform, an organization that called for “universal coverage with individual responsibility,” according to a press release that listed Gillespie’s name at the time.
But during the Obamacare debates in Congress, Gillespie specifically criticized the idea of an individual mandate. “This bill is a monstrosity and from a Republican perspective, if you look at the mandates in it, the taxes in it, the cutting of Medicare for seniors, the federal funding of abortion,” Gillespie said on ABC’s “This Week” in November of 2009.
“I understand there’s $10 billion in funding for the IRS to collect the new taxes, to enforce the individual mandate. It would take 16,500 new IRS officials to do all of this,” Gillespie said on Meet the Press in 2010. “This is massive. And when people see it, and I know Democrats take umbrage to, ‘Oh, it’s government takeover,’ it is a government takeover. That’s what’s going on here. And the voters are going to see it, and they’re going to reject it.”
Gillespie has made clear that he will make Warner’s vote for Obamacare a top issue if he runs.
“Should I decide to challenge Mark Warner for a Virginia senate seat next year, my critique of the individual mandate and massive government intrusion into our health care that he cast the deciding vote for would be consistent with my long-held free market beliefs, and my outspoken criticism of Obamacare as it was debated in Congress,” he told The Examiner.