ASHLAND, VA.— The dream of 2010 is alive in Ashland, Va.
Wednesday was a dreary, overcast day in this Richmond suburb, pop. 7,200. Driving into town, you pass a Waffle House, a Motel 6, a handful of chain restaurants. It's the kind of town that a member of the D.C. media elite might call "sleepy."
But the mood inside the Hanover Arts and Activities Center on Wednesday afternoon was hardly somnambulant. A crowd of roughly 200 packed into the small auditorium to watch Sen. Rand Paul stump for fellow Republicans David Brat, who upset former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary, and Ed Gillespie, the veteran Republican operative who is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Warner.
By Paul's telling, the Kentucky senator is a Great Uniter of sorts—able to bring together fringey tea-party characters with Bush administration vets in one big, warm tent sheltered from the storm of party in-fighting.
Paul's speech on Wednesday dovetailed nicely with that idea. "I see unity, and I smell victory," he told the crowd. "Be a part of it."
And indeed, Brat and Gillespie looked unified—they even bro-hugged at one point.
"We told you this would be a rally!" Brat told the jubilant crowd.
Still, Brat and Gillespie make for an odd couple. Brat is a libertarian economics professor who's taught at a small college here for 18 years; Gillespie is a lifelong politico who worked in the Bush administration and was a lobbyist for Enron. They in many ways represent the two, uneasy wings of the Republican party that Paul is trying to line up behind him on his way toward a likely presidential bid.