Ed Gillespie appears to have learned a great deal about Republicans in the Commonwealth since his narrow defeat for the United State’s Senate. First, Mr. Gillespie has aggressively pursued the conservative wing of the Republican grassroots; securing loyalties and buy-in years before the real race for Governor began. Second, Mr. Gillespie has learned that there is nothing to be gained from antagonizing the populist wing of the party, no matter how awful, how nasty, or how dishonest they are about him personally and professionally. Third, Mr. Gillespie understands that campaigns are about monotonous optimism and allowing your surrogates to fight in the mud, when fights in the mud are necessary.
Mr. Gillespie hasn’t slipped through the entire campaign. He has demonstrated very little interest in slinging insults and his campaign staff has tried to keep the focus on the issues and on beating the Democrats. It isn’t sexy. Focusing on the Democrats isn’t going to get Republicans on Facebook and Twitter talking about your candidacy. However, I’m not sure that having Republicans talking about you on Facebook and Twitter is actually a good thing. Corey Stewart has built an army of die-hard supporters who have so infuriated every other Republican that it seems impossible for Stewart to get 35%.
In fact, Rand Paul based his entire Presidential campaign on winning Social Media. It was a remarkable failure.
Mr. Gillespie’s campaign hasn’t inspired me, but for a front-runner, he’s accomplished something remarkable. Somehow, he’s become everyone’s second choice. Stewart voters seem more annoyed by Frank Wagner’s pragmatism and his history of slating than they seem bothered by Gillespie’s history as a Bush Administration insider and D.C. lobbyist. If Wagner doesn’t win, 100% of his voters will go to Gillespie. With Denver Riggleman out of the race, it appears that a large number of his supporters are far more likely to back Gillespie than they are to back the populist candidacy of Corey Stewart.
Gillespie would win a convention today. That’s crazy – but it is the result of running a remarkably brilliant and a remarkably steady campaign.
While I understand the motivation of those running around social media screaming “Establishment Ed” at the top of their lungs (he is an establishment candidate), what I don’t understand is their abandonment of the entire conservative tradition and years of their own pretense at principle, in their support of Corey Stewart. It just looks weird.
Gillespie is going to win the primary in June. The question is, will the populists all stay home in November? Are the populists willing to continue electing Democrat Governors who veto every conservative piece of legislation passed by our General Assembly?
Honestly, I think that is exactly what they intend to do. Thankfully, Mr. Gillespie has run such a positive campaign, that I think more than a few populists will find themselves unable to manufacture their faux hatred for Ed come November. If Mr. Gillespie continues to run a positive campaign aimed at defeating the Democrats, then I think he has a realistic shot at winning in November.
The Democrats have a difficult choice. Nominate a candidate with no pulse and half-a-brain or nominate a candidate who will scare the living hell out of Independents in the Commonwealth. Either way, whomever they choose doesn’t hurt a Republican’s chances in November.
This is not an endorsement of Mr. Gillespie. I honestly don’t know who I’m voting for in June. Neither Mr. Wagner nor Mr. Gillespie have advocated a political platform I can get behind, but come June, I know I’ll be voting for one or the other. I’ll probably vote for the candidate that I feel ran the smartest and most honest campaign. Right now, I have no idea who comes out on top there. All I know is that Wagner’s campaign has impressed me with its pragmatism and honesty; and Mr. Gillespie’s campaign has impressed me with its humility and willingness to embrace factions within the party the establishment has historically ignored. Kudos to Mr. Gillespie for that.