It’s still late July, and about 100 degrees outside as I type in Texas, but I am beginning to sniff November in the air. Politico is up today with a story about the debate last night between incumbent Democrat Mark Warner and challenger Ed Gillespie for Virginia’s Senate race. For some reason, the debate was held across the state line in West Virginia, at the world-famous Greenbrier Resort. There’s also some question in my mind as to why they held it, as apparently there was nobody watching. PBS reports fewer than 800 viewers on the live stream and there is no media outlet in Virginia who presently intends to air the whole thing.
I am having a hard time understanding it entirely as there is no link to any video, even edited, but apparently the tone was fairly ugly. Warner came out swinging, and Gillespie stood toe-to-toe with him. Politico observes:
…the Democrat didn’t debate Saturday with the confidence of someone cruising to reelection.
The first — and possibly only — debate of the contest gave Gillespie the chance to show that this race should be higher on the list of potential GOP pick-up opportunities.
Gillespie apparently called Warner a “blank check” for Obama, while the Senator disagreed and noted several instances where he disagrees with the President, including the KXL pipeline and tougher sanctions on Russia. In turn, Warner accused Gillespie of being willing to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and supporting a personhood amendment– when in doubt, Democrats, fall back on the War on Women– to which Gillespie replied he wasn’t going to vote to overturn Roe as he was running for the Senate, not the Supreme Court– good line, I laughed at that one– and challenged Warner to document his support for personhood.
The reason this is confusing is Politico also says– in the same article, no less–
It was much more civil than the gubernatorial debate the Virginia Bar Association sponsored last summer, and both candidates came across at their best.
PBS moderator Judy Woodruff managed to nail the candidates down on a few items:
- Gillespie came out in favor of Over the Counter Sale of contraceptives, a response to the WoW meme from the Democrats pioneered by Cory Gardner in Colorado, which is intended to blunt the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby fight.
- Gillespie defended his work as a lobbyist for Enron by saying his firm dropped them as a client before the end of their contract date after it became apparent they were playing silly buggers.
- Warner dodged the question about whether he would vote for Obamacare again, saying the law need to be fixed, not repealed; and accused Gillespie of favoring the individual mandate previously, which was denied.
- Warner dodged twice about the new EPA regs– in a coal state. He’s waiting until the “end of the comment period” to decide.
- Gillespie acknowledged a human contribution to climate change.
- Both said the immigrant children should be sent back home.
- Gillespie opposes the Ex-Im bank, and cites this as evidence of independence.
- Gillespie personally opposes Same Sex Marriage, but does not think there should be federal law on the subject, it’s a matter for the States.
- They both appear to be moderate hawks on foreign policy, agreeing we should not take the military option off the table with Iran and that Israel is our best Middle East ally.
All together, that’s not easy to sum. This race has been pretty much off my radar. I thought Warner would cruise to victory. He still may, and the polling is all his way. I don’t believe there has been a public poll released with him less than double digits ahead, and RCP’s current average is +19. That said, Politico is right: Warner did not look as confident, and Gillespie did not look as desperate, as they both should have if the polls were telling us the whole story. Perhaps we’d better watch this one a wee bit closer. Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll schedule another debate after all.