- The Washington Times - Monday, October 29, 2001

Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III has been moved to the back of the campaign bus of fellow Republican Mark L. Earley, who is running to succeed him.
The Republican governor was a dominating figure in the campaign in July and August, defending Republican candidate Mark L. Earley and exchanging barbs with Democrat Mark R. Warner. But he has had a much lower campaign profile since the Sept. 11 attacks, not traveling with Mr. Earley or taking the sorts of shots at Mr. Warner.
The difference is all the more stark when contrasted with the role of U.S. Sen. George F. Allen, who spent this weekend on the campaign trail with Mr. Earley.
The Earley campaign says Mr. Gilmore has been busy shepherding the state through security and economic challenges, so they haven't expected him to be able to campaign for them.
But Dick Leggitt, a political adviser to Mr. Gilmore, said the governor hasn't exactly been turning down invitations to help.
"Even as busy as [the governor has] been since Sept. 11, we have been sure to let them know he's available to help them in any way they feel appropriate. But it's their campaign. They have to run it," Mr. Leggitt said.
David Botkins, a spokesman for Mr. Earley, wouldn't talk about whether the governor has been invited to stump, saying the issue is "not germane to the task at hand."
"Governor Gilmore has been very involved in this campaign," he said, pointing to mailings and television commercials that show the governor and Mr. Earley together. "He did a television spot a very important television spot that shows the legacy Mark Earley plans to continue, and that's the legacy of Gilmore, [U.S. Sen. George F.] Allen, and the experienced leadership that those gentleman, including Senator [John W.] Warner, have brought to Virginia."
In some respects Mr. Gilmore is walking the same line as President Bush, who has avoided overtly partisan campaign activity since Sept. 11. But just like the president, Mr. Gilmore's popularity in Virginia has risen as he has managed the state post-Sept. 11. From a low of 50 percent approval, the governor has risen to a 66 percent approval rating in a recent internal Republican campaign poll, said a Republican Party source.
Mr. Gilmore has certainly presented issues in the governor's race, with Mr. Warner frequently attacking him for mismanagement of the Virginia Department of Transportation and for this year's legislative budget impasse.
Faced with the choice of distancing himself or defending and embracing the governor, Mr. Earley has tried to do a little of both.
If Mr. Gilmore is absent from the front lines, though, he is still the backbone of Mr. Earley's campaign organization. The Republican National Committee, which Mr. Gilmore heads, has contributed a record amount of money to Mr. Earley and has committed a tremendous amount of staff.
That help has not gone unnoticed in the Earley campaign.
"If it wasn't for him, we'd have been out of the game a long time ago," admits one strategist.
Just about every poll to date has shown Mr. Earley trailing Mr. Warner, though the polls disagree as to how much. A Washington Post poll taken last week and published yesterday showed Mr. Warner with a 10 percentage-point lead with a 3 point margin of error while a Mason-Dixon poll taken a week earlier showed Mr. Warner up by three points, give or take four points.
The Post poll was good news for Mr. Warner because it showed him with 51 percent support among likely voters the first time a major poll has shown either man with majority support.
The poll showed 2 percent of voters supporting Libertarian William Redpath and 6 percent undecided.
Both Mr. Warner and Mr. Earley were campaigning along Route 58 in the state's southern region yesterday. Mr. Warner attended rallies and a Democratic dinner in Emporia and Lawrenceville, while Mr. Earley stumped with Mr. Allen in Danville and Martinsville.

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