No one expected this race to be this close.
Incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Warner and Republican Ed Gillespie are nearly tied in Virginia’s Senate race, according to early returns. With 99 percent of precincts in, Warner leads with 49.1 percent to Gillespie’s 48.5 percent.
Speaking to supporters late Tuesday, Gillespie said he wasn’t ready to concede. “We’re going to be patient here. And I believe we need to be respectful of the voters.”
“This race is not going to be decided until the last vote is counted,” adviser Mark Obenshain added at the election night celebration.
Gillespie shocked observers by leading Warner in early returns that trickled in Tuesday night. Not until votes came in from Democratic-rich northern Virginia did Warner take the lead in the returns.
The night’s events were so shocking because no poll showed Gillespie ahead of Warner ahead of Election Night. But The Daily Caller reported over the weekend that Gillespie was down just four points on Warner and was within striking distance.
The GOP-leaning Vox Populi poll had Warner leading Gillespie 44 percent to 40 percent. Over the summer, Vox Populi was the only polling firm to show former House majority leader Eric Cantor struggling in his Virginia primary days before the election. Cantor went on to shockingly lose that race.
In a recent interview with TheDC, Gillespie, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, predicted he would continue to gain on Warner as people in Virginia got to know him.
“We’ve closed a big gap,” Gillespie said. “You know, when I got in, we were down 29 points to Mark Warner.”
On the campaign trail, Gillespie often pointed out that Warner has voted with President Barack Obama 97 percent of the time; meanwhile, Warner, argued that he had been an independent senator willing to work with both parties.
Gillespie ran an ad during Monday night football taking the side of the Redskins, the football team under attack by liberal politicians. “I’ll oppose the anti-Redskins bill,” Gillespie said in the ad. “Let’s focus on creating jobs, raising take-home pay, and making our nation safer, and let the Redskins handle what to call their team.”
Recently, Gillespie ran an ad accusing Warner of playing “politics with a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.” Gillespie also criticized Warner for using taxpayer-funded private planes.
Warner, throughout the campaign, flaunted support from Republicans, including former GOP Sen. John Warner. He also Gillespie for his lobbyist past, specifically his firm’s work for Enron.