- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 17, 2007

Several well-known national Republicans will come to Virginia this spring as part of the state party’s push to galvanize its base and attract new voters, particularly in Democratic-leaning Northern Virginia.

“The next few years are critical ones for Virginia Republicans, and keeping the commonwealth in the Republican column is a priority for the party,” said Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia and former head of the Republican National Committee. “Having people of such national stature come into Virginia will help us bring new people into the party and raise the resources necessary to elect Republicans from the county courthouse to the statehouse to the White House.”

The series of visits, dubbed as “a spring fling,” begins later this month when former New York City mayor and presidential hopeful Rudolph W. Giuliani appears at a $500- to $10,000-a-ticket dinner at the Tysons Corner Marriott.

He is known for his leadership after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, so Mr. Giuliani’s star power was obvious last year when a rally he headlined for Sen. George Allen attracted one of the most enthusiastic crowds the Virginia Republican had on the campaign trail.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who officially entered the 2008 presidential race earlier last week, is expected to make a stop in McLean in April. Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, has agreed to take part in an event to be announced later this year.

Northern Virginia also will host Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, the first Asian-American woman appointed to a president’s Cabinet in U.S. history, and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who fled Cuba with his family when he was a child.

Mr. Gillespie said their personal stories resonate with people of all backgrounds.

“The fact that they are among the highest-ranking Hispanic and Asian-American people in our government I think is also appealing in Fairfax and Loudoun counties,” he said.

Also expected to visit Virginia are Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, White House press secretary Tony Snow, former House speaker and potential presidential candidate Newt Gingrich of Georgia and longtime Republican strategist Mary Matalin.

“I think the events will help generate enthusiasm and help bring more people and money into the party,” Mr. Gillespie said.

Virginia Republicans said the list of high-profile guests reflects Mr. Gillespie’s pull.

“I think it clearly shows one of the reasons we planned to have him come in as chairman,” said House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, Salem Republican.

Such visits also show that Republicans expect Democrats to funnel more money and manpower than usual into winning Virginia’s 13 electoral votes, a result of two consecutive gubernatorial wins and Sen. James H. Webb Jr.’s defeat of Mr. Allen in the U.S. Senate race last fall.

“I think that we have so many presidential contenders and Cabinet secretaries and Republican luminaries coming into Virginia is indicative of the recognition of the fact that every year is an election year in Virginia and two Democrats have made a target of the commonwealth and we need to respond accordingly,” Mr. Gillespie said.

Gerald E. Connolly, a Democrat and chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said he is not concerned about Republicans gaining ground from the visits.

“The fundamental problem with the Republican Party in Virginia is that it has been hijacked by the right and paralyzed by hard-core ideology,” he said. “I don’t think any number of people coming to Virginia can fix that.”

Virginia Democrats last night hosted Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who announced his presidential bid on Feb. 10. Mr. Obama was the keynote speaker at state Democrats’ Jefferson-Jackson weekend in Richmond.

Mr. Gillespie last night was the keynote speaker at Republicans’ annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner in Woodbridge.

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