Campaign 2016: Jim Gilmore, GOP Presidential Candidate
from The Water's Edge

Campaign 2016: Jim Gilmore, GOP Presidential Candidate

Former Governor Jim Gilmore of Virginia speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Former Governor Jim Gilmore of Virginia speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

The state of Virginia fashions itself as the “Birthplace of Presidents.” Eight American presidents, and four of the first five, were born in Virginia. But the Commonwealth has been suffering a dry spell since Woodrow Wilson was re-elected nearly a century ago. Jim Gilmore hopes to change that. The former Virginia governor announced late last month that he is running for president. He is the seventeenth prominent Republican to join the 2016 presidential race and the ninth governor. He is very likely to be the last on both scores.

Name: James Stuart “Jim” Gilmore III

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Elections and Voting

Date of Birth: October 6, 1949

Place of Birth: Richmond, Virginia

Political Party: Republican

Marital Status: Married (Roxane Gatling)

Children: Two

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Elections and Voting

Alma Mater: University of Virginia

Career: Attorney General of Virginia (1994-1997), Chairperson of the Republican National Committee (2001), Governor of Virginia (1998-2002)

Campaign Website:

Twitter Handle: @gov_gilmore

Campaign Announcement

Gilmore announced his race for the White House in a thoroughly modern way, with a web video:

Gilmore starts his eleven-minute video by asking a question: “Why am I running?” His answer is simple:

I’m a candidate for president because our current Washington leadership is guiding America on a path to decline, and I can reverse that decline.

He goes on to give a five-minute indictment of the “Obama-Clinton administration” for creating “a dangerous world that has become more dangerous because of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy failures.” Even when Gilmore turns to domestic economics, he links the steps he proposes back to restoring America’s power and prestige abroad.

Gilmore’ Story

Gilmore was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. His father was a meat-cutter at Safeway, his mother a church secretary. After graduating from the University of Virginia, he served for three years as a U.S. Army counterintelligence officer in West Germany. He later graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law. After ten years in private practice, he entered politics. He won two elections as a Commonwealth Attorney for his home county, before running for state-wide office. He was elected attorney general in 1993, and then governor in 1997. The Virginia Constitution bars governors from serving more than one term. It is the only state in the country with such a prohibition.

Gilmore has run for president before. He threw his hat into the ring for president in early 2007. He never caught fire with donors or voters, and within six months he became the first GOP candidate to drop out of the race. He then took a shot at Virginia’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2008. But he lost to Democrat Mark Warner by 31 percentage points.

In 1993, while governor, Gilmore was named chairman of the congressionally mandated Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capability for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction. Better known as the Gilmore Commission, it generated more than 150 recommendations for securing the homeland by the time it wrapped up its work in 2003. Gilmore’s stewardship of the panel took on special meaning with the September 11 attacks. The Pentagon is located in Arlington County, Virginia, and Gilmore was still governor.

Gilmore currently serves as the president and CEO of the think tank Free Congress Foundation. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association. He also chairs the National Council on Readiness and Preparedness, which seeks to promote public/private partnerships to strengthen homeland security.

Asked why he might succeed in 2016 when he failed in 2007, Gilmore says, “I think it’s different because the times are different.”

Gilmore’s Message

Gilmore says he entered the race because “the country is in serious danger.” He’s not impressed with the national security expertise that his GOP rivals bring to the table:

None of the other potential candidates knows anything about foreign policy, whereas I do.

Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum, among others, would dispute that claim.

Gilmore’s announcement video suggests that he will stress foreign policy in his bid for the White House. But with such a late start and relatively little name recognition, he could have trouble getting his message heard. He did not qualify to participate in the prime time Republican debate in Cleveland on August 6, and he is the only major GOP candidate who has not yet received an invite to participate in the CNN/Reagan Library debate on September 16. To make that debate, he will have to register an average of at least one percent in three national polls by September 10, among other criteria.

Foreign Policy Views

Gilmore doesn’t much like President Obama’s handling of foreign policy. In a March 2015 piece for the National Interest laying out his foreign policy vision and his critique of the “Obama Doctrine,” Gilmore argued:

America’s foreign and defense policies are weak and in disarray. The world has grown far more unstable in the past six years as a result of the president’s failure to lead, his policies and his consistent practice of restraining America’s influence around the world.

Gilmore wants America to lead the world because it has a moral duty to do so:

America has the right, and the duty, to defend and advance those ideals. Our freedoms and culture make us exceptional among nations, giving us the legitimacy to challenge ideologies that attack ours, and the cultures that oppose our values. America is, as both Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan said, “the last best hope” of mankind.

For all the emphasis Gilmore puts on foreign policy, he has said relativity little about what the United States should do to respond to the many foreign policy challenges it faces. To be fair, it may also be the case that the media hasn’t chosen to cover what he has said.

Middle East

Like every other GOP presidential candidate, Gilmore opposes the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that the Obama administration has negotiated with Iran:

If I was (sic) President, I would not have entered into the agreement with Iran that lifts the sanctions, allows for new arms to flow to Iran and does not stop Iranian support for terrorism across the Middle East and indeed the world.

He thinks the deal sends the wrong message to the region:

We’re sending a message to the other people in the Middle East who have been traditionally our allies and are telling them that in 15 years, at the very least, that Iraq’s (sic) going to be a legitimate nuclear state.

He says that if Congress can’t stop the deal from going into effect and he becomes president:

I’d do my best to invalidate it.

He would go a step further. To stop Iran’s bid for regional hegemony and to defeat the self-proclaimed Islamic State, he would establish a Middle East version of NATO:

As President, I would work to create a new mutual security alliance to protect the members of the alliance, to resist a religious war, to eliminate ISIS, and to move the Middle East closer to democracy and away from theological autocracies.

One wonders how Saudi Arabia, which Gilmore hopes will join his Middle East NATO, feels about his call to move “to democracy and away from theological autocracies."


Gilmore thinks that the “Ukraine crisis would have been different under a President Romney” because Vladimir Putin would have feared the unsuccessful 2012 GOP nominee. But now that Ukraine is under threat, Gilmore wants to continue sanctions against Russia. He also wants to reassure Eastern Europe:

We need to recognize that Eastern Europe wants to be Western, and it’s our duty to engage them as publicly as we can and make sure that everyone understands that we’re drawing a line here. Obama says he drawing lines, of course, but they don’t seem to mean much.

Gilmore hasn’t specified what “engage them publicly” means in terms of concrete policy actions.

Climate Change

Gilmore hasn’t said much on climate change recently. When he ran for the Senate in 2008, he hedged on whether he thought that man-made climate change was real:

We know the climate is changing, but we do not know for sure how much is caused by man and how much is part of a natural cycle change.

In February 2010, he wrote an op-ed for the of the Virginian-Pilot opposing cap-and-trade programs to limit the emissions of heat-trapping gases and suggesting skepticism of the science underlying the arguments made by climate change activists:

We should immediately re-examine the science upon which this policy (the Obama administration’s proposed climate change legislation) is grounded. All scientists must be given a fair opportunity to conduct their research, and have their views considered. Al Gore is simply not a reliable source on which to base such a dramatic policy change.

So it seems unlikely that Gilmore will advocate for aggressive action to prevent or mitigate climate change.


Gilmore said last December that he is still formulating his views on immigration. During his 2008 run for the U.S. Senate, he argued that:

The most important thing is to secure our borders. And, we must insist our immigration laws be enforced. Illegal immigration is costing Virginia taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year and Congress needs to mandate the enforcement of our immigration laws. We are a nation of immigrants. Immigrants from all over the world have been extremely important to the development and success of our nation. So we should continue to respect them and be willing to consider reforms that address our workforce needs.

This past May, he said that when it comes to immigration:

You know I wish I had a magic answer, but I’m going to tell you a couple of touchstones that I think that need to develop the answer. Number one, I think the Hispanic community is adding to the nation. And when you look at the population of China and India, and the third largest population in the world is the United States, we need more people, and better people, all the time.

While Gilmore may still be formulating his preferred immigration policy, he is dead set against calls for ending birthright citizenship, the practice of granting citizenship to anyone born in the United States. He took dead aim at GOP rival Donald Trump for suggesting its repeal:

I think he’s been out in the sun at the Iowa State fair too long. . . . There is no lawyer anywhere in America that misunderstands the Fourteenth Amendment: if you are born in the United States you are a natural-born citizen. What’s stunning is that Donald Trump and Governor Walker have agreed that that should be changed. That we should be eliminating birthright citizenship in the United States. I could not more emphatically disagree with that. It’s very dangerous to begin to tinker with who gets to be a citizen, who doesn’t get to be a citizen. And it is a dreadful message to be sent to young people right now who have citizenship and are going to feel like they’re not wanted. This is wrong. It’s pandering. It’s an awful-type of statement and it should be rejected summarily. And there’s no lawyer, any serious lawyer with a law license, that would agree with what Donald Trump has said.

Gilmore’s legal analysis has not stopped Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, and Rand Paul in joining Donald Trump in calling for the repeal of birthright citizenship. Although Scott Walker made statements seeming to support the repeal of birthright citizenship, he now says he takes no position one way or the other on the matter.

More on Gilmore

ABC News offers “Meet Jim Gilmore.” The Crux offers “5 Faith Facts About Jim Gilmore.” NPR offers “5 Things You Should Know About Jim Gilmore.” asks, “How Much Do You Know About Jim Gilmore?” The Center for Public Integrity has “9 Things to Know About Jim Gilmore.”