In one year, Virginia Republicans are planning to hold a convention to nominate their Republican candidate for governor. However, the path to the Governor's mansion is clouded by one of the most divisive presidential nominating conventions in modern history, Trump at the top of the ticket, and an angry activist base - which is leading to another race to the right.
The candidates who have made the biggest impact are the ones who have taken a firm stance and have gained ground with party activists, like Corey Stewart. Rob Wittman has conservative credentials including sponsoring extreme personhood bills, but it will be difficult to defend his far-right record to a general electorate. Finally, Washington Fixer Ed Gillespie hasn't told voters where he stands on most issues except his support for Donald Trump. Gillespie's Washington Insider approach - like hosting an event with establishment Republican Nikki Haley - may not fair well with the convention crowd.
"The Gillespie-Stewart-Wittman-Trump dynamic is creating a sprint to the right in order to bolster conservative credentials for the convention, and Virginians will witness how far candidates are willing to go to win," said Emily Bolton of the Democratic Party of Virginia. "Gillespie's event today with Nikki Haley won't hide his full-throated endorsement of the disastrous Trump agenda, and all of the candidates will be forced to defend their support of Trump to Virginians in 2017."
STATE OF THE RACE:
- Ed Gillespie, Corey Stewart, and Rob Wittman have fully endorsed Donald Trump for President.
- Republican activists are still fuming from a divisive state convention.
- Being considered "establishment" is political suicide in the Republican Party of Virginia.
- Even former Governor Jim Gilmore couldn't score a spot on the delegate slate.
- Each candidate is sprinting to the right:
- Ed Gillespie: Gillespie was quick to endorse Trump, even as his former boss, President George W. Bush refused to do so. Yet, he continues to take a Washington Insider approach by bringing in establishment politicians like Nikki Haley to support him in an anti-establishment convention electorate.
- Corey Stewart: Corey Stewart is an ideological anti-immigration crusader and Donald Trump's Virginia Chair. He continues to double down on his positions and aggressive rhetoric.
- Rob Wittman: Rob Wittman is seeking Ken Cuccinelli's endorsement and boasts far-right positions on women's health, such as sponsoring personhood measures.