Democrats predict Gillespie will face Tea Party problems

Likely Virginia Senate candidate Ed Gillespie (R) could have some problems with the Tea Party — at least, Democrats hope he will.

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Gillespie, a former head of the Republican National Committee, senior adviser to former President George W. Bush and lobbyist, is expected to announce his run against Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) this week.

Republicans are excited about Gillespie's candidacy against the popular senator, but Democrats are predicting he'll run into some trouble with the GOP base over his support of comprehensive immigration reform, deficit spending and previous support for a health insurance mandate.

"The GOP establishment and DC insiders are very comfortable with lobbyist Ed Gillespie, but rank-and-file Virginia Republicans won't feel the same way when they learn about his record," Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Justin Barasky says in a research document from the DSCC first obtained by The Hill.

"From lobbying for health insurance mandates on all Americans to his support for comprehensive immigration reform, leading the charge to promote the reckless and irresponsible Bush deficit spending and marketing the Wall Street bailout, Ed Gillespie is out of step with Tea Party Republicans."

Republicans fired back, attacking Warner.

"Mark Warner says one thing and does another," National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring said. "Warner says he's a moderate but votes with President Obama consistently, broke his ObamaCare promise that Virginians can keep their health insurance and doctor if they liked, and since he's been in the Senate every Virginia household's share of the national debt has increased $52,000 despite his misleading rhetoric."

Gillespie will be the heavy favorite for the GOP nomination when he enters the race. But he'll have to make it through a state GOP party convention nomination process — and win over Tea Party members who might be skeptical of his record. Two Tea Party-affiliated candidates are already in the race.

—Updated at 4:45 p.m.