The Roanoke College poll of Virginia residents (not voters) unsurprisingly finds Sen. Mark Warner (R-Va.) ahead by almost 30 points over just-announced Republican challenger Ed Gillespie. The good news for Gillespie, however, is below the top-line numbers.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner, who's expected to play a role in negotiations to avoid the "fiscal cliff," speaks during an interview with Reuters in Washington, November 20, 2012. President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress hope to start serious negotiations after this week's Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday on how to avoid the "fiscal cliff," which has politicians and economists worried about the direction of the world's largest economy. REUTERS/Stelios Varias (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) Senator Mark Warner (REUTERS/Stelios Varias)

For one thing Warner’s identification with President Obama is problematic. (“Obama’s job approval rating has declined 5 points since October 30, 2013 Roanoke College Poll and now is at 38 percent (47% disapprove).”) If Gillespie can paint Warner as a rubber stamp for Obama’s key initiatives, he made be able to chip away at Warner’s claim to independence and moderation. Moreover, Warner doesn’t break 50 percent in the matchup with Gillespie and his favorable rating is only 47 percent while Gillespie is unknown to 75 percent of respondents.

The poll director therefore concludes, “Given that 75 percent don’t know enough about him to have an either favorable or unfavorable opinion of him, it is no surprise he trails Mark Warner so decisively. There is plenty of time for that to change as the state gets to know him. In politics, 10 months is an eternity.”

Gillespie is wasting no time, and is out with a Web ad tying Obamacare around Warner’s neck:

That’s one way to drive down Warner’s approval ratings.

Gillespie will  also have to introduce himself to voters and define himself before Warner does. That means not only biographical ads like his announcement video, but an explanation of what he would do differently and how Virginia (aside from not having the Obamacare plague) would benefit by having him in the Senate.

Gillespie has a long way to go to make the race competitive, but Warner’s support , many conservatives suspect, is soft. (In his gubernatorial race he won by less than 100,000 votes; in his Senate race he ran the Obama wave against a weak opponent, Jim Gilmore.) We’ll find out whether Warner’s support is soft enough to collapse under a barrage of Obamacare attacks launched by a competent candidate.