News & Politics

Prospects Brighten for Ed Gillespie in Virginia Governor's Race

Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie speaks at a campaign rally at the Washington County Fairgrounds, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, in Abingdon, Va. Establishment figure Gillespie is in a neck-and-neck race against Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam. (Andre Teague/The Bristol Herald-Courier via AP)

With just hours to go before the polls open in Virginia, GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie finds himself on offense thanks to an unforced error by his opponent, Democrat Ralph Northam.

Inexplicably, Northam enraged his Democratic base and opened himself up to charges of flip-flopping by saying earlier this week that he would sign a bill outlawing sanctuary cities if it landed on his desk as governor.

Progressives were outraged at what some of them termed a “racist” position while Gillespie gleefully took advantage.

The Hill reports on Gillespie’s gift saying that Northam “voted against a similar bill in the state legislature, but he’s called that bill a ‘political game’ and argued that he hasn’t changed his position on sanctuary cities and has been clear about his opposition. Northam said in a recent interview that he’d sign a bill banning sanctuary cities ‘if that bill comes to my desk.'”

Democracy for America, a prominent progressive group, withdrew “direct aid” from Northam’s campaign while criticizing the Democrat for leaving his running mate’s name, Justin Fairfax, off of campaign literature. “The reason why we’re standing up now is because we’ve been seeing this pattern of strategy by the Northam campaign to alienate the base, while trying to go over these mythological, swing-able Republican voters,” Charles Chamberlain, DFA’s executive director, told The Hill in a Friday interview.

“We specifically spoke up because we’re worried about the outcome of this race. We are very afraid that he’s going to lose and that’s exactly why we spoke out because they have five days to course-correct,” he said.

“Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D), the founder of DFA who left the organization last November, broke with his former group, tweeting that it was a ‘destructive and foolish statement,'” according to The Hill.

If that doesn’t sound like “disarray” I don’t know what does.

In desperation, Northam dragged in a Hispanic supporter, state Del. Alfonso Lopez, who tried to reassure Democrats and Hispanic voters, saying in a statement that Northam’s record on “other immigration issues” was fine.“He knows the difference between real legislation and ‘dog whistle’ policies crafted only to instill fear and create division,” Lopez said in the statement about Northam. “He hasn’t changed his positions — he has always been consistent. And he has always been a consistent friend to the Latino and New American communities.”

Considering that Democrats from coast to coast have been claiming that supporting a ban on sanctuary cities is the definition of “dog whistle” legislation, it’s hard to square Lopez’s statement with reality.

Other Democrats are praying that voters are too stupid to notice: “I think we can all quickly overplay the impact of this because we see it a lot in our email inbox but it’s not what voters are seeing and caring about, especially the undecided voters,” said a Democratic strategist with ties to Virginia.

“These are low information voters and the biggest deciding factor in their vote is going to be the approval of the president and the latest piece of information they got was the [former campaign chairman Paul] Manafort indictment,” he said.

I think we can call that a “Hail Mary” and an exercise in wishful thinking.

The latest polls show the race in a dead heat after Northam enjoyed a comfortable lead earlier in the race. It’s hard to gauge momentum, but Northam’s blunder certainly couldn’t hurt Gillespie’s chances.