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Linking Warner to Obama

Mr. Gillespie made clear that he plans to hammer hard at Mr. Warner’s record, linking him to President Obama’s most unpopular policies.

“I think that when Virginians learn about Mark Warner’s record in the Senate, they’re going to be surprised,” he said. “He has told us all along that he will be fiscally responsible, a radical centrist. He’s voted for $7 trillion in new debt. That includes the failed stimulus package that was a trillion dollars in cost to us. He has voted for nearly $1 trillion in new taxes. He told us that he was going to be an independent voice and he’s voted 97 percent of the time since he’s been in office with President Obama.”

Republican activists and opinion leaders, of course, know Mr. Gillespie well, which could be a problem. Critics on the right, for example, say that when he was state GOP chairman, he backed transportation legislation designed to win votes in heavily Democratic Northern Virginia. Mr. Gillespie said the plan didn’t raise taxes, but the Supreme Court later concluded that it amounted to an unconstitutional increase in taxes.

Asked about the legislation, he said, “As chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, you don’t make policy. You try to keep folks focused on elections and winning elections.”

Mr. Gillespie knows the adage — current even when his janitor grandfather immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland — “Show me who you’re friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” He said he hasn’t thought much about which other Virginia Republicans he would most identify with — be it former Gov. Jim Gilmore, who cut taxes, and just-retired Gov. Bob McDonnell, who raised them.

“I tend to be focused obviously on the current Senator of Virginia and how things would be so different had I been the Senator,” he said. “For example, I would have voted against Obamacare, and we wouldn’t have it as the law of the land today had I been Virginia’s Senator.”

Mr. Gillespie did offer support for former Republican Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, who lost the governor’s race narrowly to Democratic fundraiser Terry McAuliffe in November.

“We would be in a much better position as a Commonwealth today if Ken Cuccinelli had won. I was strongly supportive of Ken and I wish he had won.

Opposing same-sex marriage

Mr. Gillespie also weighed in on same-sex marriage, which is bubbling to the surface now that the state’s new Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, announced last week that he no longer would defend the state’s ban on gay marriage in court.

“My faith teaches me to love people for who they are and accept them,” Mr. Gillespie said. “I am Catholic, and I do do that. My faith also teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman. In fact in the Catholic church it’s not just a teaching, it’s a holy sacrament just like communion. I believe that as well. I believe marriage is between one man and one woman and I believe that people who don’t share that view or share my faith, that that doesn’t make them anti-Catholic or religious bigots. And I think people who do share my view, that doesn’t make us anti-gay either.”

Like just about every other Republican, Mr. Gillespie said border security must come first in addressing the immigration issue.

As to what he would do about the estimated 12 million people in the U.S. illegally, he wouldn’t say whether he would advocate deporting them over time. He replied several times that he doesn’t “believe that will happen.”

But what would he recommend to the Republican Senate conference if elected?

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