This is Not What We Need

I do not want to sound like a broken record, but for the umpteenth time I am incensed enough to call out the Corey Stewart campaign for divisive, dishonest and downright despicable campaign tactics. Corey Stewart believes he can capitalize on the Trump Campaign energy by copying the more caustic aspects of Trump’s personality for his own benefit.  He is trying to “out-Trump Trump” as a tactic, but doing it at the expense of the Republican Party and our potential for success in Virginia.

It is no secret that I am a supporter of Ed Gillespie for Governor. I know and respect Ed, agree with him on policy, trust his conservative bona fides, and also believe that he can win across the Commonwealth, including in NoVA, where I live and which is critical to a statewide win. So yes, I’m biased, but even if Ed was not running I would still have to speak out about how Corey Stewart is running his campaign. This is not what we need in Virginia.

Primary races are often rough affairs. We see it every cycle. Candidates pledge to follow “Reagan’s 11th Commandment” (thou shall not speak ill of another Republican) but often abandon it in desperation. Most times, however, they do so with some subtlety. Corey Stewart is doing the opposite.

Other commentators have already called Stewart out on his latest false attack – the ridiculous assertion that Ed Gillespie is “for late term abortion.” For those who have not followed that story, just a quick review will suffice. On the eve of this year’s March for Life, Stewart recorded a message for social media in which he accused Gillespie, who he has tagged “#AbortionEd,” of being insufficiently Pro-Life, and posted it with the caption, “Establishment Ed is for late-term abortion.” The obvious lie of the statement got immediate attention in the national press, with, among others, U.S.News and National Review roundly criticizing Stewart for a wanton misrepresentation of Ed Gillespie’s views. Multiple Virginia-based blogs and new outlets, including Bearing Drift, did the same. Gillespie, who is Pro-Life and holds a number of high-level Pro-Life endorsements, including U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, former Governor George Allen, Virginia Senator Dick Black, and Virginia Senator Mark Obenshain to name a few, clearly isn’t “for late term abortion.” In fact, Gillespie’s campaign, which asserts he is “100% Pro-Life” said, “Ed has never wavered on the cause of life. Ed is pro-life and will defend and protect innocent human life, from conception to natural death. Ed knows that life should be cherished and protected.” That’s a pretty straight-forward statement from a candidate who was endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee during his 2014 Senate run.

This behavior is not new. Stewart has attacked Gillespie on a range of issues, always with exaggerated claims of Gillespie’s lack of conservative principles. He has called him a “globalist,” he has questioned his (obvious) support to the 2nd Amendment rights, and has even characterized Gillespie, one of the architects of the Contract with America, as being “closely aligned with the Democrats” which is, frankly, laughable. You will not find a single Democrat who would agree with that statement.

In my mind, however, those false claims are not the worst part of the Stewart attack strategy. Corey Stewart lied, yes, and that is bad. He tried to divide the party for his own benefit, even divide the Pro-Life movement for his own purposes, and that is bad too. All of that is easily debunked, and others have done it very well already. What is worse, to me, however is the personal insult that went along with that lie. “I just am having a hard time understanding how Ed Gillespie can call himself a conservative, how he can call himself a Catholic, how he can call himself frankly even a good man.”

The personal nature of the attacks he continues to launch against anyone who gets in his way is reprehensible. In all the fuss about what exceptions are acceptable in late-term abortion legislation (a debate worth having), what got lost is that Corey said Gillespie was not a “good Catholic” and “frankly even a good man.” Is this the kind of Governor we want in Virginia? Do we want someone who questions an opponent’s faith? Do we want someone who uses lies to question an opponent’s character? Do we want someone leading the party who so viciously attacks all who stand in the way of his personal success? I do not believe for a second that this is how you win over the voters we need to win in the general election. It certainly is not a successful strategy for governing.

Corey Stewart must be thinking, “Trump did it, why can’t I?” But the Trump phenomenon is just that, a phenomenon, one not likely to be duplicated in Virginia. It is worth remembering that Trump lost Virginia by over 5 points, and was destroyed in Northern Virginia. Trump lost Fairfax County, for example, by 235,763 votes out of 551,183 cast, receiving over 197,000 votes less than Hillary Clinton. He lost Prince William and Loudoun Counties by large margins as well, not to mention his shellacking in Arlington and Alexandria. Stewart lacks the celebrity status of Donald Trump, so a similar strategy is likely to produce even worse results. More importantly, this type of personal attack is beneath the dignity of the Governorship of the Commonwealth.

Let’s not forget the Corey hit parade.  He was fired from the Trump campaign for a protest at the RNC against what he called “GOP establishment pukes.” Pukes! He has called Gillespie a coward, a “chicken,” and the “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” He called those not entirely on board with then-candidate Trump “traitors” and threatened their careers going forward. He has attacked Paul Ryan, Barbara Comstock, and many others. None of this is funny, and it will not work in Virginia.

We need to build the party in Virginia, swelling our ranks, to win in November. Corey Stewart thinks we are “realigning” as a party, and his realignment includes “shedding” who he calls “establishment types.” As we all know, however, politics is about addition, not subtraction. Corey Stewart does not seem to get that.  Out-Trumping Trump is a tactic that I predict will hurt Virginia Republicans. It will divide the party, “shed” voters, and lead to a loss in November. Corey Stewart does not seem to understand this, or he does not care. He is putting himself first, and apparently does not care who he smears in the process. We do not need this in Virginia.