Gillespie Ran a JEB! Campaign in a Trump World

Four years ago, Virginia conservatives were told you couldnโ€™t win with a candidate who excited the Republican base.  Conservatives were told that candidates like Ken Cuccinelli spelled certain doom, that the answer was a moderate establishment candidate. Tonight we now know that that candidate Ed Gillespie did worse than Ken Cuccinelli did. And Cuccinelli performed better without the support of the Virginia GOP establishment.

Ed Gillespie is certainly a good fellow. But his campaign used messages from 2004 and tactics from 1996. It seemed to exist outside of the ferocious upheavals of the modern polarized political world.

Letโ€™s take a look at a few pieces of mail I received. Put aside the woeful electronic media campaign, and the nearly non-existent social media effort. Letโ€™s just look at the mail.

The messaging was almost nostalgic, longing for a political world pre-Trump, pre-Obama, pre-polarization. It's as if President Bush was running for reelection in 2004, and it was no accident we seemed to get the same campaign. To the mail pieces.


You know when a Republican cites MSNBC thereโ€™s trouble. When I received this, I assumed it was a mailing from a Democrat: โ€œMSNBC โ€“ The Tone of Negative Politics Has to Change.โ€

Great Scott, MSNBC?! A Republican? When MSNBC says the โ€œtone of negative politics has to change,โ€ I know exactly who and what they are talking about: Trump, conservatives, anyone with a principle, anyone who believes in the Constitution. What was it doing in my mailbox?

But it got worse.

Other material in support of Gillespie cited the loathsome Richmond Times and the even more loathsome DNC public relations firm known as the Washington Post.

Direct mail piece. Highlight in original.

โ€œMany who have known him for years regard Mr. Gillespie as a centrist and a pragmatist,โ€ announced the Washington Post.  โ€œGillespie Urges Compassion,โ€ hailed the Richmond Times.

Pinch me. Am I awake? Am I dreaming I am back in Philadelphia in the summer of 2000? Is this the GOP convention? The โ€œtorn newspaperโ€ clip art was from the age of Motorola flip-phones. Is the mailing a spoof, a well-targeted Northam effort to depress turnout among conservatives?

But it wasnโ€™t. It was real.

Letโ€™s be clear. Unlike plenty of other candidates, Gillespie is a good fellow. But Gillespie ran a Jeb campaign in a Trump world. In fact, he avoided the president and the presidentโ€™s supporters noticed.

Equally gracious is Gillespieโ€™s wife Cathy. But when I got a campaign letter from her in support of her husband, I could only think โ€“ some consultant needs to lose their job for writing this and sending it to me.  Letโ€™s do the time warp, back to 1996 and the Dole campaign: