Donald Trump jumped onto Twitter late Thursday night and got involved in the Virginia gubernatorial race. His endorsement was exactly what Republican Ed Gillespie did not want — and now Democrats are fundraising off of it.
At the beginning of the Virginia gubernatorial race, GOP candidate and former party chair Ed Gillespie tried to position himself as a “traditional” Republican who is not bound to Donald Trump or his politics.
Polls show Trump is not popular in Virginia — the only state of the former Confederacy to vote for Hillary Clinton — and so distance from Trump has been an essential strategy for Gillespie.
But with one month to go until Virginia elects a new governor, Trump just threw that illusion out the window in a tweet attack on the Democratic candidate, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam:
The problem for Gillespie is that this tweet uses almost identical language to his own racist ads, which basically stop just short of accusing Northam of being OK with Latino gang members coming in and raping white women. The Virginia Republican Party has used rhetoric like this in its mailers as well.
It is harder for Gillespie to claim he is a different brand of Republican from Trump when he and Trump sound almost exactly alike.
Virginia Democrats are acutely aware of this — which is why Northam immediately jumped on Trump’s tweet and used it to fundraise.
— Ralph Northam (@RalphNortham) October 6, 2017
Northam has refused to back down in the face of increasingly racist attacks on his campaign. Republicans have resorted to branding him a race traitor, but he is still standing. In fact, polling throughout the race has shown him slightly ahead. Perhaps that is why Trump mistakenly thought his involvement could help his fellow Republican.
Meanwhile, Northam is not the only Democrat who is going on the attack. A record number of Democratic candidates are running for the Virginia House of Delegates, fighting to break solid control of the GOP legislature.
Gillespie refuses to admit it, but he has turned the race in Virginia into a test of Trump’s racial resentment politics. It is on Democrats to step up and make sure he fails.