Virginia Isn’t In Play — Yet

The president believes Virginia “is in play” in 2020. He intends to campaign here, we’re told (third-hand), taking advantage of perceived cracks in the local Democratic facade to bring relief — and victory — to the long-suffering Virginia GOP.

Assuming, of course, the locals prove they are worthy of President Trump’s time and make a strong showing in this November’s legislative elections.

That’s asking a lot of local Republicans, who have watched Virginia Democrats take full advantage of Trump as a foil and an organizing tool.

But, as I wrote last week, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s apparent reprieve of the president gave Republicans legitimate reason to believe they might be able to stop Virginia’s decade-long march toward becoming a Democratic stronghold.

Does that mean they are prepared for regular presidential appearances in the near future?

Of course not.

While the president might not be heading for a Nixonian fall (just yet), that doesn’t mean Virginia Republicans want to be seen onstage with him at a campaign event. Virginians still don’t approve of Trump, regardless of what Mueller says.

Republicans, not being utterly oblivious to this reality, prefer the preternaturally bland Vice President Pence to make the rounds, help them raise money and rally the base.

Not that the low-energy Pence was able to make a difference for Trump on his numerous stops in the commonwealth in the 2016 presidential campaign. Nor did Pence’s October stopover for three Republican congressional candidates make a noticeable difference in those races.

But Pence’s style is a good fit with the current GOP narrative, which itself is a shrewd approach to November’s off-off year elections.

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