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Gilmore Lines Up Support But Ignores Marshall

Tim Craig

Former governor James S. Gilmore III, who is seeking the GOP nomination for Senate, unveiled a series of endorsements today to demonstrate his committement to the "sanctity of life and the preservation of traditional family values."

In a joint statement, 23 GOP conservative activists are urging GOP activists to get behind Gilmore, calling him "a strong, pro-family conservative."

The statement comes as Gilmore is trying to fend off a challenge for the nomination from Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), who is also a conservative. Marshall, who argues he is a stronger opponent of abortion rights than Gilmore is, has been quietly lining up support. Several thousand party activists will decide the nominee at party convention in May.

Gilmore has embraced a strategy in which he largely ignores Marshall, instead focusing on former governor Mark R. Warner, the likely Democratic nominee. It's a risky strategy.

But considering Warner's early advantages, Gilmore is probably making the right decision - at least for now.

Gilmore's biggest challenge is raising money, and convincing the National Republican Senatorial Committee that Virginia's Senate race will be competitive this fall. If big donors and national Republicans get the impression that Gilmore has to fight a two front battle - Marshall and then Warner - they may decide their money is better spent on a less fluid Senate race.

Gilmore's strategy was evident in this morning's email. Even though it was clearly designed to shore up support from conservatives, Gilmore's campaign used it to take the fight to Warner, not Marshall.

"Jim Gilmore will work tirelessly to make the pro-family, pro-job tax cuts permanent and will champion limits on the growth of spending, which is robbing our children of their futures," the letter said. "Jim Gilmore will work to restore some common sense to a federal government that wants to remove God from everything, yet allow almost anything else on network television."

The letter then asks, " Will Mark Warner support pro-life legislation when it comes time to vote? Will Mark Warner support an amendment to the Constitution supporting traditional marriage? Will Mark Warner vote for cutting taxes and spending to create jobs and help our families? Will Mark Warner have the courage to stand up against the liberal leaders of the Democrat Party when it is the right thing to do?"

The letter ends with a call for conservatives to unite around Gilmore, without ever mentioning Marshall.

"Too much is at stake not to unite - and unite now - behind the one conservative candidate with both a proven record and a chance to win," the letter said. "We have closed ranks behind him and ask you to join us and to invite others to do so."

This may be Gilmore's last chance to avoid Marshall. If Marshall is still a potentially viable candidate for the nomination in a month, Gilmore will have to engage him.

And once Gilmore is seen getting in a public battle with Marshall over who is the more conservative candidate, many big-money GOP donors, as well as moderate GOP voters, will start writing off Virginia's Senate race as unwinnable in the fall.

The Gilmore supporters who signed the letter are:

Trixie Averil, Western Vice Chairwoman
Helen Blackwell, Republican Party of Virginia Central Committee
Morton Blackwell, Republican Party National Committeeman
James Attics Bowden, Former 1st Congressional District Republican Chairman
Linwood Cobb, 7th Congressional District Republican Chairman
Patsy Drain, Republican Party of Virginia Central Committee
Louise D. Hartz, Former President, Virginia Society for Human Life
Rick Hendrix, Republican Party of Virginia Central Committee
Del. Bill Janis (R-Henrico)
Bill Kincaid, Pro-Life Activist
Del. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William)
Laura Uzzell Logie, Longtime Pro-Life Activist
Sen. Steve Martin (R-Chesterfield)
Bobby May, Former Buchanan GOP Chair & Long Time Activist
Bruce Meyer, 2nd Congressional District Republican Chairman
Lynn Mitchell, Republican Party of Virginia Central Committee
Sen. Steve Newman (R-Lynchburg)
Del. Brenda Pogge
Robert Stuber, Spotsylvania County Republican Chairman
Michael Thomas, First Vice Chair, Republican Party of Virginia
John Van Hoy, Republican Party of Virginia Central Committee
Michael Wade, 3rd Congressional District Republican Chairman
Kristi Way, Republican Party of Virginia Central Committee

By Tim Craig  |  March 11, 2008; 11:18 AM ET
Categories:  Election 2008/U.S. Senate , Tim Craig  
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