Republicans are hoping to expand their 2014 Senate map into the contentious swing state of Virginia and kick popular Democratic Sen. Mark Warner out of office.
Republicans are casting their lot with Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a lobbyist, who the Washington Post reported will declare his candidacy next week.
Gillespie had been mulling a Senate run for some time and has been actively engaged in strategic discussions with the state party in Virginia for months.
"As I've made clear, I am talking to a lot of my fellow Republicans in Virginia about running against Mark Warner," Gillespie said in an email to the Washington Post Thursday. "I've been encouraged by people all across our party and our commonwealth. The filing deadline is February 1st, so I will be announcing my intentions in the near future."
Gillespie's announcement would mark a clear effort by establishment Republicans in the state to stop the tea party from gaining more traction in Virginia. Many Republicans in the state are still reeling after losing the governor's mansion, the race for attorney general and the lieutenant governor's seat. While Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli won the Republican nomination in Virginia, many in the party argue his social conservative values were too extreme for him to win the general election.
Warner will no doubt have a formidable challenger if Gillespie jumps in the race, but the freshman senator is considered one of the most popular in Congress. A November Public Policy Polling survey found Warner with a 51 percent approval rating and a double digit lead in popularity over every other statewide official in the state.
Warner also has the financial means to fend off even a viable challenger. According to campaign finance reports, Warner has more than $7 million already raised for his Senate race and even more to draw from his personal war chest.