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Hull: What Exactly Is Corey Stewart Doing?

By Andrew Hull

Let me preface this by saying that the following is not really meant to be some snark-fueled rant about how much I hate Mr. Stewart. Granted, I have been a harsh critic of the man and the campaign he is choosing to run. That being said, I have simply reached a point of bewilderment when it comes to this guy, to the extent that I can’t even be angered or surprised by his behavior anymore 

Corey Stewart’s background and resume are not too shabby in terms of someone running as a Republican candidate. He’s been successful in a blue county, and basically holds your typical conservative positions on the 2nd amendment, abortion, and other issues, and I understand that he is also a fairly religious man. 

In other words, a candidate with Stewart’s combination of conservative positions and electoral success in a hostile area of the Commonwealth would ordinarily be more competitive in a GOP primary. From a policy standpoint, I’m fine with admitting that there is very little in terms of substantive issues that I myself disagree with Stewart on. 

That said, I just happen to believe that “protecting statues” isn’t going to help businesses put a single Virginian to work or reduce anyone’s taxes by a dime, so harping on that issue makes little sense when people will ultimately vote with their proverbial checkbooks.

Stewart, however, has chosen to run as an imitation of Donald Trump instead of being himself. This is campaign malpractice of the highest order on its very face, seeing as Trump lost Virginia by five points. Aside from that, Stewart is (to his credit) actually to Trump’s right on various issues, which isn’t very hard to do with Trump shifting around on issues as we go along.  

From what I can gather, he’s seeming to run on the following things:

 1.  He isn’t Ed Gillespie.

 2.  He really likes the Confederate flag and Confederate monuments, and he will tell you all about it with his slight Minnesota accent.

 3.  Did I mention that he is, in fact, not Ed Gillespie?

In the meantime, he has essentially surrendered what should be his base of support, which oddly enough would be Northern Virginia, and is aggressively pushing for votes in more rural and less populated parts of the state. 

As someone with his track record in deep blue Prince William County, nobody with a straight face can tell me that he’s not making a grave mistake in running even farther to the right of the voters in that area than he has made a political career out of doing, nor can anyone honestly tell me that they think wrapping his campaign in the Confederate flag is going to help him in the part of the state from which he comes. 

It sucks, but it’s simple math and geography that dictate that you aren’t going to win any statewide election without doing well in the more populous and often less conservative areas in Virginia, or any other state, and here we have a candidate seeming to do everything in his power to flip the figurative middle finger at the voters in that region, despite the fact that he’s defied the odds there for years without being so provocative.

In closing, I’ll repeat that I’m not trying to be a jerk or to trash Stewart or his supporters. But as someone who worked on campaigns for several years, is involved in my local GOP unit, and who also studies these things in my free time because I’m just a political junkie who probably just hates myself enough to do so, I am absolutely baffled by what I’m seeing from Corey Stewart. He’s someone who could be more successful as a Republican statewide candidate on his own merits without being such a combative and bombastic individual, and blatantly emulating Trump in a state that Trump ultimately lost to Hillary Clinton makes no strategic sense. 

I understand some of Stewart’s behavior, in the sense that he is running behind Gillespie, though the margin varies from poll to poll. As such, he’s got to take as many shots as possible at the frontrunner, because that’s just what someone in second place is relegated to doing. But he’s overplayed that hand and now has become the, “Vote for me because I’m not someone else,” candidate, which rarely works out well.