- - Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sometimes today’s loser is tomorrow’s winner. Virginia state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain conceded last week that a conveniently discovered ballot box had given his Democratic opponent a slim edge in the recount for attorney general. As a conservative Republican who performed better than the rest of his party on Election Day, Mr. Obenshain might give serious thought to filing against Sen. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, who must defend his U.S. Senate seat next November.

Mr. Obenshain has a statewide campaign infrastructure in place, and he has the proven fundraising prowess needed to seek higher office. The scion of a famous Virginia political family, he has the name recognition that means he won’t have to introduce himself to voters as a first-time candidate would have to do. Other Republicans who have put their names forward lack the name recognition and financing, fatal flaws when they face an opponent such as Mr. Warner, a former telecommunications and venture-capital executive with a net worth estimated at close to $240 million.

Mr. Warner won his election in 2008 as a moderate Blue Dog Democrat, but he votes like a liberal. Congressional Quarterly voting studies show Mr. Warner has voted with the Obama Democrats an average of 97 percent of the time. “Aside from the six confirmation votes he missed,” the National Republican Senatorial Committee notes, “Warner has voted to confirm every single Obama nominee,” including the president’s far-left judicial picks. Mr. Warner has been a reliable ally in the president’s goal of “fundamentally transforming” America.

State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who narrowly lost his bid for governor, says he won’t run. That leaves Mr. Obenshain as the highest-profile candidate with all the advantages needed to mount what would be an uphill challenge against a strong incumbent. Mr. Warner will no doubt masquerade as a moderate once more, but there’s no reason to think his voting record would be any less liberal if he wins again.

Republicans must pick up six seats to take control of the Senate, and the party is betting that irritation over Obamacare will reach red-hot rage by November 2014. This is the usual “big if,” and to take advantage of such rage there can be no room for disunity in the state party. Sore Republican losers cost Mr. Cuccinelli the governorship this year. Such won’t happen again if establishment Republicans, who have forgotten Ronald Reagan’s famous Eleventh Commandment, “Speak no ill of another Republican,” have learned their needed lesson. Unifying early with a credible candidate in the Old Dominion would send a signal that the Republicans are serious about winning this time. That’s important because the Senate is long overdue for a change in management.