- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ed Gillespie trails Sen. Mark R. Warner by more than 20 points in the Virginia Senate contest, according to a poll released Wednesday that suggests the Republican hopeful has made no progress closing the gap against the Democratic incumbent in the nine months since announcing his candidacy.

The survey, conducted Sept. 2-7 by the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, gives Mr. Warner an overall 53 percent to 31 percent lead over Mr. Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman and one-time senior adviser to President George W. Bush. It also shows Mr. Warner with a broad base of support across the political spectrum.

Mr. Warner earned 91 percent support among Democrats but also strong marks from independents and even people who identify themselves as conservative. The senator scored 48 percent support among independents compared to 23 percent for Mr. Gillespie and took a healthy 19 percent from “ideological conservatives,” of whom 67 percent supported Mr. Gillespie. Moderates support Mr. Warner over Mr. Gillespie by a margin of 60 percent to 21 percent.

“Mark Warner’s position surely makes him the envy of all of those incumbent Democrats who are in trouble across the country,” Wason Center director Quentin Kidd said. “Warner not only has the solid backing of his own partisans, but also significant support among Republicans and ideological moderates and conservatives — what might best be called ‘Warner conservatives.’ ”

The poll suggested most voters have made up their minds, with just 11 percent undecided and Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis drawing 5 percent.

Mr. Kidd also pointed out that the figures have changed little since the Wason Center conducted a similar survey in January 2014 in which Mr. Warner drew 50 percent to Mr. Gillespie’s 30 percent.

Republican operatives insist the margin will close in the coming months in an environment favorable for the GOP, but The Washington Times reported Sunday that outside groups have shown scant interest in backing Mr. Gillespie, who is still largely unknown by voters ahead of the Nov. 4 election.

“Ed Gillespie’s challenge is formidable,” Mr. Kidd said. “He has to build his base while at the same time chipping at Warner’s solid lead.”

Adding to the potential difficulties, campaign finance reports showed that at the end of July Mr. Gillespie had $3 million cash on hand compared to Mr. Warner’s $9 million.

The poll also showed a 47 percent approval rating for Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who won office last year with 48 percent of the vote. Twenty-seven percent disapprove of Mr. McAuliffe.

The governor’s ratings are higher than President Obama, who won 43 percent approval from Virginia voters compared to 53 percent who disapprove. Virginians still held Mr. Obama in higher regard than they hold members of Congress, which won the approval of just 12 percent of respondents compared to the disapproval of 85 percent.

The poll, of 819 registered Virginia voters, had a margin of error of 3.4 percent.

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