If the election were held today, the editors at RealClearPolitics currently assess the Senate races across the country as breaking 46 seats for the Republicans, 44 seats for the Democrats, with 10 “toss-ups.” Eliminating the toss-ups, Republicans lose the Senate 51-49.
The Democrats still need to show up and play the game, but, with so many Republican-held seats up for election, the situation is fraught. As the Wall Street Journal recently opined, “Whoever holds the majority will determine whether change next year is centrist or radical.”
And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell correctly noted that keeping the Senate will be a “firewall” against House Speaker Pelosi and her minions.
Currently, all the big money — the national GOP, Club for Growth, major individual donors, and the like — are focused on the toss-up races. Perhaps Mitch McConnell and the GOP need to adopt a “war of maneuver” approach to put at least one or two other states on the RCP Senate map, earlier rather than later. They must put risk capital into promising races where smart, imaginative candidates can reorder the battlefield and leverage early support to energize their campaigns, open up a new front in the war for the Senate, and take the battle to the Democratic candidate or sitting senator.
So why not Virginia?
There are several reasons for taking a second look at the Commonwealth as a target of Republican opportunity.
In 2019, the Democrats completed a sweep of state government in Richmond, Virginia, engineering a pronounced shift to blue-state values and legislative actions completely antagonistic to the Republican or conservative base on the Second Amendment, Right to Work, the right to life, and religious liberty. They have used COVID-19 as an excuse to empty prisons and the current unrest to downgrade penalties for assaults on a police officer from a felony to a misdemeanor. Over 130 jurisdictions within the state have passed resolutions declaring themselves “sanctuaries” for the protection of Second Amendment rights.
In Staunton, Republicans completely recently threw out of office newly elected Democrats largely on the strength of the pro-gun vote.
Moreover, Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly are also pushing a state constitutional amendment to enshrine abortion, up to the moment of birth, free of any restrictions, even if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, a former governor of Virginia, has been in the Senate since he was first elected in 2008. You might think he is a towering figure in state politics, but he is not. His political persona is vague and ill-defined in the public mind. But that will change as the campaign progresses.
As I have previously written for The American Spectator, Warner has moved back and forth on gun rights but has supported the expansion of background checks on gun buyers. And, while he used to oppose bans on assault weapons, he now has expressed support for them. He has recently introduced federal legislation mimicking recent anti-gun legislation in Virginia. None of this will play well outside the Washington suburbs.
The American Conservative Union rated Sen. Warner at 9 percent, Heritage 5 percent, and Family Research Council 0 percent. Conversely, the pro-abortion NARAL rates him at 97 percent.
Sen. Warner came within 1 percentage point of losing his reelection in 2014.
This year, in Virginia, the Republicans are blessed with an outstanding candidate for the U.S. Senate, retired Army Lt. Col. Daniel Gade, a West Point graduate with 25 years of military experience. He is a decorated combat veteran. He lost a leg in Iraq, endured over 40 surgeries, and received two Purple Hearts, the Legion of Merit, and a Bronze Star. He is a dedicated husband and father with a Ph.D. in public policy. He also served in the administration of President George W. Bush, working on veteran’s affairs and later President Trump’s administration, on veteran employment.
Gade’s story is inspirational. He won his category in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in 2010 and completed a full Ironman the next week, pedaling the entire race with one leg.
It is noteworthy that Virginia is the home to over 780,000 veterans — a diverse demographic for sure, but one that will pay close attention to one of their own who has sacrificed so much for their country.
Daniel Gade has “command presence” when he speaks and is right on all the big issues being a full-spectrum conservative. Yet he has a knack for building bridges and reaching out across political, social, and economic boundaries with empathy. At a recent gathering of supporters in McLean, Virginia, he told the story of when he was helicoptered by the Marines to a Navy field hospital as he was bleeding out from an explosion that ultimately took his leg. Over two dozen Marines and sailors volunteered to provide blood to this young Army officer without hesitation. No questions asked his race, creed, or color — and none cared about his branch of service.
Gade had an impressive primary election victory, obtaining the best turnout of a Republican since 1996. He garnered two-thirds of the vote in every city and county in Virginia against two opponents. He is an aggressive, motivating campaigner and is utilizing social media to the max. He streams almost nightly from around the state, and even did so from his daughter’s new university out of state one day. His topic: education.
Gade’s campaign theme is “Same Oath, New Mission,” rooted in his service to America since he was 17. For Independents and Democrats, this message of self-sacrificial service to the citizenry and the the Constitution will resonate. He presents a stark contrast with the career politician he faces.
So why not put the Virginia Senate race in play and shift early resources to help Daniel Gade take out a Democratic senator and keep the U.S. Senate in Republican hands? The political environment in Virginia is rebalancing in favor of right-of-center politics. It has an unremarkable incumbent on the wrong side of most of the key issues that matter. And the GOP has a candidate from political heaven with the drive to pull off a stunning upset.
Sounds like a race on which to put real money.