Warner Touts GOP Endorsements in Bid to Burnish Moderate Cred

Sen. Mark Warner’s (D-Va.) announcement last week that 16 prominent Republicans have endorsed his bid for a second term is just the latest in his campaign’s effort to burnish his image as a moderate who’s willing to work with the GOP.

Warner, 59, faces former Republican National Committee chairman and GOP strategist Ed Gillespie, 52, in November’s election.

The Republicans endorsing Warner include former U.S. Sen. John Warner, who is not related to the current senator, former Gov. Linwood Holton, and a dozen or so former Virginia state delegates and senators.

“I have made it my priority to work across party lines [to accomplish] real reforms,” Warner said in making the announcement.

Through four years as governor in the early 2000s, and five more as senator, Warner has built a reputation as a moderate consensus builder who can easily work with members of both parties. And in Virginia, a politically diverse state that neither party has a lock on, it’s a reputation that Warner’s campaign wants to keep foremost on voters’ minds come November. That’s especially key for Warner, analysts say, given Gillespie’s goal of portraying Warner as a liberal lackey of President Obama.

“Ed Gillespie’s main campaign strategy so far has been to try to portray Warner as a member of Obama’s politburo, voting with the president nearly all the time,” explained Stephen J. Farnsworth, a professor and director at the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg.

But do inter-party endorsements really help a candidate over the course of a months-long campaign?

Yes and no, says Farnsworth.