- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Talk radio host Laura Ingraham confirmed Tuesday she is testing the waters for a run for Virginia’s Senate seat, setting up what could be a marquee matchup against Sen. Tim Kaine, Democrats’ 2016 vice presidential nominee.

Ms. Ingraham has been an ardent supporter of Donald Trump and helped play a role in the upset victory of Rep. Dave Brat, who unseated House Republicans’ leader in a 2014 primary.

Now she says “well-connected” people in the state are pushing her to make a run herself.

“I’m considering,” Ms. Ingraham said on “Fox and Friends.” “I haven’t made any decisions yet.”

If she were to run, it would make the campaign one of the highest-profile matchups in next year’s congressional elections.

“Tim Kaine is vulnerable,” said Paul Prados, GOP chair of the 11th Congressional District.

Democrats have been on a winning streak in Virginia, controlling all statewide offices and prevailing at the presidential level for three straight elections. But Mr. Prados said Democratic turnout should drop in a non-presidential election next year, giving the GOP a chance.

“If she gets in I think it would be awesome,” said Cynthia Dunbar, a Republican National Committee member from Virginia. “She has a tremendous backbone. She is smart. She is articulate, and she is not an insider politician.”

If others continue to waffle over whether they will enter the race, Ms. Dunbar said the party could bolster its chances of winning the seat by rallying behind someone like Ms. Ingraham early on in the contest.

“I think America is in a place that they are tired of the seasoned politicians,” Ms. Dunbar said. “The fact that she has not run for office, I don’t see that as a liability, I see that as an asset for her.”

But Mo Elleithee, a Democratic strategist who was previously worked for Mr. Kaine, said Ms. Ingraham’s lack of political experience and her no holds-barred style would provide a stark contrast with Mr. Kaine, who he said continues to “get accolades in the state for bringing a reasonable, pragmatic, approach to the job.”

“You compare this reasonable pragmatic approach that has always served him well in Virginia against a professional flamethrower in Laura Ingraham — that is going to look good for him,” Mr. Elleithee said. “I could not think anything better for Kaine than to run against Laura Ingraham.”

Republicans say the field of candidates could be influenced by the 2017 gubernatorial primary featuring Ed Gillespie and Corey Stewart, Prince William County Board of Supervisors chairman, with the loser turning around to run for Senate.

Former Hewlett Packard CEO and 2016 presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, former Gov. Jim Gilmore and state Rep. Jimmie Massie are said to be seriously considering bids.

Others have said that Rep. Barbara Comstock, former Rep. Tom Davis, and Pete Snyder, who ran for lieutenant governor in 2012, have shown interest in the job.

Mr. Brat, meanwhile, said he is not running.

John Fredericks, host of the John Fredericks Radio Show who played a lead role in Donald Trump’s Virginia campaign, said he doubts Ms. Ingraham is serious.

“She puts out rumors about herself — it is egomania out of control,” Mr. Fredericks said, adding that if she proves him wrong, she will not be in for a coronation. “If people sense that Tim Kaine is vulnerable, she will be in a dogfight.”

For his part, Mr. Kaine ruled out running for president in 2020 after the November election and is focusing on re-election, hoping that he will benefit from deep political ties and friendships on the state and national levels that he has developed over his 15 years in public office.

The 58-year-old served on the city council and then as mayor in Richmond before getting elected as lieutenant governor of Virginia. Since then he served as the state’s 70th governor and chaired the Democratic National Committee.

Mr. Kaine was sworn into the Senate in 2013 after defeating former Republican Gov. George Allen, and was thrust into the national spotlight last year when Mrs. Clinton tapped him as her vice presidential candidate.

Mr. Pardos said the presidential race left Mr. Kaine damaged back home.

“He had built up over time a reputation as a somewhat moderate Democrat and as people say in the vice presidential debate and also in multiple campaign appearances that Tim Kaine showed himself to be rather partisan on the campaign trail,” he said. “Now he was just doing his job, but the end result is that Tim Kaine has exposed himself in what is very much a purple state.”

Ms. Ingraham is the host of “The Laura Ingraham Show” and bills herself as the most-listened-to woman in political talk radio.

She is a New York Times best-selling author and a former attorney who worked as a law clerk at the Supreme Court. She also worked in the Reagan administration, serving as an assistant to White House domestic policy adviser Gary Bauer.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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