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Is Ed Gillespie stepping into a Virginia ambush?

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National Republicans figure Ed Gillespie can give Democratic Sen. Mark Warner a run for his money this November.

But, first, the former Republican National Committee chairman must win the Virginia GOP nominating convention on June 7. And rival Howie Lind says the gathering in Roanoke will be on his side.

“Party elites don’t select the nominee. And money can’t buy love in a convention,” Lind told Watchdog.org in an interview Thursday evening.

A Lind campaign survey of likely convention delegates gave him 32 percent support versus 6 percent for Gillespie (who had yet to enter the race) and 2 percent for Shak Hill.

Campaign manager Patrick Murphy said the telephone poll started with calls to 36,000 past convention delegates, and distilled that number to the 7,000 most likely to attend this year.

That’s the group — heavily laced with tea partyers — that Lind says he has been courting since declaring his candidacy last June.

Though the Lind and Gillespie talking points sound virtually identical, the Navy veteran brands the former Mitt Romney adviser and Karl Rove protege “a big party guy” and a “DC insider.”

“That’s what’s got us into this mess — deal making and crony capitalism,” Lind charged.

Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the Republican National Senatorial Committee, touted Gillespie’s credentials Thursday.

“Ed’s entrance … transforms Virginia from a safe Democrat seat into a competitive race,” Cornyn, R-Texas, predicted.

“Bottom line: Virginia has become a prime pick-up opportunity.”

Perhaps. But a pick-up for whom?

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