WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 12: Former Chairman of the Republican National Committee and Republican hopeful for Virginia's US Senate Ed Gillespie at his headquarters in Lorton, Virginia on Wednesday March 12, 2014. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post) Ed Gillespie at his headquarters in Lorton. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Ed Gillespie’s Senate campaign is touting big fundraising numbers, $2.2 million in the first quarter, for the GOP adviser-turned candidate who is challenging Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). Campaign manager Chris Levitt announced in a statement: “In less than a full quarter, the Gillespie campaign raised more money than any other Republican Senate challenger in the country. Virginia voters know that they have an opportunity not only to replace a Senator who’s voted 97 percent of the time with President Obama, but to replace Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader. Our first quarter report shows strong support from across the Commonwealth and reflects enthusiasm for Ed Gillespie’s plans to put Virginians first and unleash job creation.” He will need that money since Warner is a prodigious fundraiser himself (bringing in $2.7 million during the first quarter).

Gillespie’s numbers reflect a few positive trends for the GOP. The Virginia state party was down in the dumps just a few months ago after losing the gubernatorial and two other statewide races in the wake of the federal government shutdown. Now with a viable Senate candidate, donors and activists have perked up. The benefit of a competitive Senate race is that it also helps congressional candidates. This year Barbara Comstock is the front-runner in the GOP primary for Virginia’s 10th Congressional District to replace retiring Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican. She also enjoyed a big fundraising quarter, bringing in $775,000. Since redistricting in 2010, the 10th has become somewhat more conservative, but Democrats will look for an opening wherever they can get one this year. A strong Senate candidate at the top of the ticket in November will help Comstock.

And, finally, Gillespie will continue to make Warner raise and spend money and drain available Democratic funds from other races. Every million dollars spent to save Warner’s seat is a million that can’t be used in Michigan or Arkansas or Colorado. Certainly, not all the GOP challengers are going to win their races, but many will, and even those who fall short can help revive the party, help congressional candidates and drain Democratic resources. And if 2014 really is a wave year, the tide will sweep in a  lot of candidates, making it essential to field quality candidates in all the races. For all these reasons Virginia Republican are very pleased.