STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) -- Ahead of Saturday's first debate for one of Virginia's U.S. Senate seats, one analyst said the candidate who will likely decide who wins this fall isn't even in the debate.
It's incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Warner versus the Republican challenger Ed Gillespie.
"It's going to be a very, very nasty campaign," according to political analyst David McQuilkin.
Although the debate is the first major clash of the campaigns, Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis was not invited.
"It's a real slap in the face to Virginia voters," said Sarvis.
Last year, Sarvis won more than 145,000 votes when he ran for governor in an election decided by 55,000 votes.
McQuilkin has a bold prediction for Sarvis' role in this race, "He's going to be the one to probably and ultimately decide it."
McQuilkin also said the question will be who does he take the most votes from?
Sarvis said he didn't win or lose the election for McAuliffe or Cuccinelli last year.
Although polls show Warner with a sizable lead over Gillespie, head-to-head, that doesn't mean Warner has already won.
"The voting populace is evenly divided. Ultimately I suspect it's going to come down to the point where who turns out their electoral base, their voters, in the greatest numbers is probably going to win this election," said McQuilkin.
In fact, only in polls that include Sarvis does Warner drop below 50 percent support.
"It shows that a majority of Virginians are willing to vote against the incumbent. So that suggests that there's a thirst for something different," said Sarvis.
That's one reason he calls Saturday's debate a "lost opportunity" for Virginia voters.
In the bigger picture, from Saturday until November's election, "Warner cannot take Gillespie lightly. If he does, he'll lose," said McQuilkin.
Even though he will not be part of the debate, Sarvis said he would release a video response.
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