Republican candidate Ed Gillespie has mounted a shockingly strong challenge to incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in Virginia, a development that stunned political observers on election night.
As of 1:55 a.m. ET Wednesday morning, according to The Associated Press, Warner was leading by about 12,000 votes out of more than 1.2 million cast — with more than 99% of precincts reporting.
The incredibly close race means a recount in Virginia is looking increasingly likely. It’s an incredible turnaround in a race where Warner has spent months enjoying a comfortable lead.
Shortly after midnight, NBC News declared Warner the “apparent” winner. However, NBC News political director Chuck Todd explained they were not officially projecting victory.
“It’s not outside a potential recount issue,” Todd said.
Todd also said he imagined Gillespie would be reviewing the numbers to determine whether he would want to mount a recount fight.
“If I were him, I wouldn’t concede tonight,” Todd said of Gillespie. “It could be within recount range.”
One Democratic source disputed that there would be a recount. The source told Business Insider that the margin right now is bigger than the close 2006 race between Democrat Jim Webb and Republican George Allen, which did not feature a recount.
Gillespie, a former lobbyist and chair of the Republican National Committee, entered the race in January, giving Warner a legitimate challenge. Though Gillespie recovered from a more than 20 per cent deficit in public polls earlier this year, Warner was still up an average of more than 9 points heading into election night.
Warner also remains a relatively popular senator in a swing state where President Barack Obama won in both 2008 and 2012.
“When ‘things are looking up in VA-Sen’ is the good news of the night, you know it’s been” a bad night, tweeted Markos Moulitsas, the founder of liberal news site The Daily Kos.
It’s the second time this election cycle that a Virginia race has shocked the political world. In June, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was knocked off by Republican primary challenger Dave Brat in an upset.
Gillespie’s surprising performance in Virginia was part of a bad night for Democrats across the board that saw Republicans take over the U.S. Senate.
This post was updated on November 6, 2014 at 1:55 a.m.
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