United States Senator Mark Warner (D) and his Republican challenger, former Army lieutenant colonel Daniel Gade met virtually on Wednesday night for their first of three Senate debates. Senator Warner is leading Gade by double digits in recent polling from the Wason Center and has a starkly intimidating $9 million advantage.
Gade, being a challenger with no voting record or public comment history was able to effectively knock Warner for his comments in 2016 in reference to Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. At the time, when Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined Garland a hearing during the presidential year, Warner pushed for the Senate to move forward on the nominee. “This remarkably qualified appellate judge deserves a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, thoughtful consideration by the full Senate, and an up-or-down vote,” said Warner at the time. “I strongly urge my colleagues to respect the process and hope that they will allow the Senate to perform its constitutional duty to consider Judge Garland’s nomination.”
Now Warner has reversed his position, just like McConnell and Senate Republicans also have, in the national debate over nominating someone to fill the late-Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat.
Beyond that aspect of the debate, Warner seemed to cruise above the attacks lobbed his direction from the right. Gade called Warner a career politician multiple times, just as he has throughout the campaign. The description has yet to really stick or cause any damage to Warner’s campaign.
Gade did stop short of fully praising President Trump when asked about his COVID-19 response, giving him a “B- or a C+.” Warner gave the President a failing grade.
After Trump has recently mentioned that a vaccine might be possible prior to the November 3rd election day, the candidates were asked if they would take it if it became available. Gade said he would, but he continued to say that he would likely let other people take the vaccine first, due to his relatively young age and good health. Warner said he would take the vaccine if Dr. Fauci said it was safe.
Gade said that he believes pockets of racism still exist and that police reform should happen, however, he also made it clear that he is completely against the idea of defunding the police.
When talking more about the racial divide in the country, Gade said he never cared what race the person was when he was receiving blood on the battlefield. However, he went on to call the movement of Antifa a “woke mob” and said, “There is no place for organized left-wing violence.”
Warner, after saying “Black Lives Matter,” said he believes that more investment in police training is needed, noting he stands by police officers and wants to ensure they are prepared correctly.
Gade broke from Trump and his party on immigration striking a softer tone overall. Specifically with H-1B Visas, which allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. Gade said that he believes Trump made a mistake in attempts to curtail this type of Visa.
Warner and Gade both said that they would accept the results of their race along with the Presidential election. This question comes as Trump hinted that he might not accept the results of the upcoming election against Joe Biden by declining to answer on the transition of power if he were to lose.
Republicans in Congress and the President’s office have tried to clean this up since it happened by stating that they will accept the results. “The president will accept the results of a free and fair election,” said Kayleigh McEnany, the President’s Press Secretary.
Gade did echo some of the election security claims from fellow Republicans, citing specifically his concerns of the potential of someone catching ballot drop-off boxes on fire. He said he believes the Post Office can handle the job while keeping the chain of custody intact.
There has been no evidence nationwide of any election tampering taking place with mail-in voting or ballot drop-off boxes in states where these methods already take place.
Warner urged everyone to take a deep breath as the results of the election might not be known on election night. The Senator and former Virginia Governor said he fully supports the recent increase in voter access in the Commonwealth and noted that he has already voted.
Gade, the political newcomer still held his own on the large statewide stage for the first time. Warner’s campaign looks comfortable, almost on auto-pilot as the finish line comes closer.
Political scientists have stated that the most important factor in any congressional race this year will be Trump. Virginia has been engulfed in a blue wave since Trump was elected in 2016, and with Republicans losing every statewide race since 2009, Gade might not be able to find enough traction to upset the incumbent.
In this Virginian version of David vs Goliath, David is going to need a lot more than a slingshot.
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