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Virginia GOP Primary Turning into a Trump Lovefest

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Virginia GOP Primary Turning into a Trump Lovefest 

At forum, Gillespie and Stewart one-up each other to solidify Trumpian credentials

The race to the right is on in Virginia.

Republican gubernatorial candidates spent yesterday’s debate in Franklin County debating who loved Donald Trump the most – despite Trump’s abysmal 30% approval rating in Virginia.

According to The Roanoke Times, an argument over who supported Trump the most “took center stage” at the forum, with Ed Gillespie and Corey Stewart feuding over their support.

First, Stewart criticized Gillespie and the RNC for condemning Trump’s comments in the infamous Access Hollywood tape:

“‘As I stood up for President Trump against the RNC, and got fired for it. I stayed loyal,’ Stewart said. ‘I stayed loyal, and that’s the difference. He [Gillespie] has no courage.’”

Gillespie pushed back claiming he would have a better relationship with the Trump administration since Stewart was ultimately fired by the campaign for his overzealous support:

“When I call the Trump administration, I will get my calls returned because I was not fired for incompetence by the Trump folks.”

Their race to the right might be a good strategy in a GOP primary, but Virginia voters soundly rejected Donald Trump in the November election – losing by over 5 points. The Trump brand has continued to sour since his inauguration. In a Roanoke College poll, less than a third of Virginians approve of the Trump.

“So far, the GOP primary is just a race to be Donald Trump’s right-hand man in Virginia,” said DGA Communications Director Jared Leopold. “Instead of talking about Virginia’s economic future, Stewart and Gillespie argue about who can better bring Trump’s politics to Virginia. President Trump and his policies are deeply unpopular in Virginia, but apparently, Gillespie and Stewart never got the memo.”

Hugging Trump is nothing new for Stewart and Gillespie. They have both tried to shore up their Trumpian credentials for months.


  • Gillespie’s Spokesperson said Gillespie’s Support of Trump was “Clear from the Beginning.” According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “In a statement, Chris Leavitt, executive director of Gillespie’s political action committee, said Gillespie’s support for the Trump-Pence ticket was ‘clear from the beginning.’ ‘Now’s the time to bring our country and party together, but once again Corey is putting his personal political ambitions first,’ Leavitt said. ‘And if he wants to anoint himself, that’s fine. We see how well Hillary Clinton’s coronation went.’” [Richmond Times Dispatch, 11/10/16]
  • “Gillespie’s Aides Tried to Play Up His Support” of Trump. According to the Associated Press, “On Wednesday, Gillespie’s aides tried to play up his support for Trump’s candidacy – noting that Gillespie attended rallies with Trump running mate Mike Pence – while attacking Stewart as an opportunistic ‘career politician.’” [Associated Press, 11/9/16]


  • Stewart Boast: “I Was Trump Before Trump was Trump.” According to the Washington Post, “As the elected chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, Stewart a decade ago drew national attention promoting a crackdown on undocumented immigrants, a policy that presaged the tempest more recently caused by Trump’s own anti-immigrant barbs. ‘I was Trump before Trump was Trump,’ Stewart likes to boast, his grin suggesting no small amount of pride.” [Washington Post, 8/27/16]
  • Stewart Trying to Position Himself as a “Trump-Style Republican.” According to the Daily Progress, “Stewart, who was fired as Virginia chairman of Donald Trump’s campaign after taking part in an unauthorized October protest outside the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, has already tried to position himself as a Trump-style Republican running against Gillespie’s establishment brand of GOP politics.” [Daily Progress, 1/16/17]