Warner Has Cash Lead In Virginia Senate Race

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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

RICHMOND, July 15 -- With a little more than 100 days remaining until the Nov. 4 election, Republican U.S. Senate candidate James S. Gilmore III is struggling to keep pace with his Democratic opponent Mark R. Warner in the money race, and the presidential candidates are stepping up their spending in Virginia.

In campaign finance reports released Tuesday, Gilmore had $117,000 in the bank as he prepared to enter the next phase of the campaign, including a debate with Warner this weekend at the Homestead Resort in the western part of the state.

Warner, who like Gilmore is a former governor, has $5.1 million in the bank, giving him a commanding advantage in his ability to reach out to voters.

Warner launched his second major advertising blitz of the campaign Tuesday, releasing a 30-second TV spot focusing on his plans for reducing gas prices and reforming the nation's energy policies.

Gilmore has yet to air a TV ad, instead using his resources to send out targeted "robocalls" to voters to try to get out his message about the need to drill for more oil in the United States.

"It's like everything else. You would like to have more money to spend than you have, but I think the key for us is we've got enough money to deliver our message when the voters are listening, and that really isn't . . . until October," M. Boyd Marcus, a Gilmore strategist, said, commenting on Warner's 44-to-1 money advantage. "People are maybe paying some attention to the presidential race, but they are not paying much attention to anything else."

With Virginia possibly up for grabs in the presidential race, Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have started investing in TV ads in the state.

Obama released a 30-second TV ad Tuesday that will air statewide. In it, he talks about his vision for protecting national security and his efforts in the Senate to try to keep nuclear weapons out of terrorists' hands. Since becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee, Obama has aired three ads in Virginia, including in the expensive Washington media market.

McCain went up with his first Virginia ad last week, a one-minute biographical spot that has been airing in the Washington area.

If the presidential contest appears competitive in Virginia into the fall, political analysts say, Obama and McCain could each spend well more than $10 million in the state.

By the end of this week, McCain will have regional offices in Fairfax, Richmond, Fredericksburg and Virginia Beach. The Obama campaign, which has dozens of paid staffers working in the state, plans to announce a major expansion of its Virginia effort Wednesday, according to Democratic officials.

Both political parties also are expected to pour money into Virginia, which hasn't supported a Democratic presidential nominee since 1964.

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