Dems test 2018 attacks on Republicans in VA governor's race
With seven days to go before the gubernatorial election in Virginia, the polls are all over the map, making them an unreliable gauge of which candidate might be ahead.
Republican candidate Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam are slugging it out in a race to the bottom. But there is a clear winner in this contest to see who can descend deeper into the sewer. The Northam campaign and its "independent" committees have unleashed a racial attack on Gillespie so blatant in its fear-mongering and lies that even the press has called foul.
The latest ad should give GOP candidates an inkling of what's in store for them in 2018.
The minute-long ad – entitled "American Nightmare" – from the Latino Victory Project features a pickup truck adorned with a Confederate flag and an Ed Gillespie bumper sticker driving aggressively through the neighborhood chasing young minority children fleeing in terror.
The ad drew swift condemnation from both the Republican National Committee – which said it showed Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam's campaign was in "total panic mode" – and the Gillespie campaign.
"Ed Gillespie has focused his campaign on the many policy differences between Ralph Northam and him, but sadly the Northam campaign and its allies have launched a desperate smear campaign against Ed in the closing days of this election," Gillespie campaign manager Chris Leavitt wrote in a statement.
"The lieutenant governor was roundly rebuked for exploiting imagery from the tragedy of Charlottesville for political points. Now his allies have reached a new low with a disgusting, vile television ad seeking to instill fear in our children with that same imagery. This is not an attack on Ed Gillespie anymore. This is an all-out attack on the people of Virginia. This latest ad gives a clear indication of just what Ralph Northam and his national Democratic allies think of all of us, and it’s sickening," the statement continued.
The Northam campaign defended the ad and accused Gillespie of being the candidate attempting to sew division in the race.
The message to minority voters is clear: elect Ed Gillespie, and your children will be murdered by a racist, Confederate flag-loving white supremacist.
Not very subtle.
Previously, the Northam campaign had sought to tie the Charlottesville violence around Gillespie's neck. These charges resonate in a black community used to paranoid conspiracy theories and willing to believe the absolute worst about Republicans.
But don't these ads repel middle-of-the-road and independent voters? Democrats say, "So what?" Nothing illustrates the change in emphasis for campaigns over the last decade from winning independents to motivating your base to vote than the 2017 Virginia governor's race. The race has become a laboratory for testing themes and lines of attack that Democrats will gleefully use in every competitive House and Senate race in 2018.
Consider that black turnout in 2016 for Hillary Clinton was seven points lower than turnout in 2012 for Barack Obama. For the first time in twenty years, the actual number of black voters declined from the previous election. Obviously, Northam and the Democrats believe that if they can motivate enough black and minority voters to vote, they will win. This sounds like a no-brainer, but Hillary Clinton was unsuccessful in turning out enough black voters in key states to prevail. Democrats in 2016 attempted the tried and true method of scaring blacks by claiming that electing Donald Trump and the Republicans would lead to the reimposition of Jim Crow laws in the South.
This apparently wasn't sexy enough of a conspiracy theory to goose black turnout. So in Virginia, Democrats are going for the gold and accusing Republicans of wanting to murder minority children.
While it sounds preposterous, perhaps we should recall how popular Black Lives Matter is in the black community. Their over-the-top, hysterical rhetoric about the police actually targeting black men for death – that the cops are "terrorists" and "racists" – has forced the entire civil rights movement to become more radicalized.
You can bet that Democrats running against entrenched GOP congressmen are looking carefully at how all this plays out in Virginia. If Northam wins, Democrats are likely to live by the adage "nothing succeeds like success" and unleash a blizzard of similarly bizarre, dishonest, and hysterical ads designed to scare black people and other minorities to the polls.
Republicans best able to respond to this nonsense will win. Those who ignore it do so at their own political peril.