While several Republicans are trying to distance themselves from openly racist Virginia Senate candidate Corey Stewart, Trump's cheering him on.
There’s a Republican civil war brewing in Virginia, as Trump radicals and the GOP establishment pick sides over the state’s unapologetically racist, Confederate flag-loving Senate candidate Corey Stewart.
The turmoil translates into good news for Democrats, as Virginia appears to have transformed itself into an unabashed blue state outpost. No Republican has won a statewide race there since 2009.
On Wednesday, Trump cheered Stewart’s victory.
“Congratulations to Corey Stewart for his great victory for Senator from Virginia. Now he runs against a total stiff, Tim Kaine, who is weak on crime and borders, and wants to raise your taxes through the roof. Don’t underestimate Corey, a major chance of winning!” Trump tweeted.
That’s no surprise, since Stewart campaigned as a Trump acolyte and has a long history of being a “white supremacist coddler,” as Democrats call him.
Stewart has drawn criticism for refusing to condemn white nationalists after last year’s violent rally in Charlottesville. He also described Paul Nehlen, who calls himself a “pro-white” candidate running for Paul Ryan’s seat in Wisconsin, as a “personal hero.”
That kind of race-baiting may cheer Trump, but Republicans, already facing a tough election year, are quickly trying to distance themselves from the Virginia nominee.
The Senate GOP’s campaign arm, which helps elect candidates, won’t endorse Stewart. And its chairman, Sen. Corey Gardner (R-CO), said that the committee has “no plans” to spend any money on Stewart in his race against Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine.
Gardner was one of several congressional Republicans who are talking down Trump’s man in Virginia. Republicans aren’t just looking at the Senate race; they’re also concerned Stewart’s radical agenda could hurt the GOP in four Virginia competitive House seats they’re defending in November.
“Sometimes in the primary process, the thing we try and get done is get the most electable candidate on the ballot in the fall. And that doesn’t always happen,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD), clearly implying Stewart is not electable.
An aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) bluntly confirmed there will be no outreach to Stewart:
One thing to keep in mind about Corey Stewart vs Tim Kaine in Virginia: Republicans are already writing this one off. I asked longtime McConnell adviser Josh Holmes if national groups would spend on Stewart. “I’ll make it easy: No.”
— Henry J. Gomez (@HenryJGomez) June 13, 2018
And even Rep. Matt Gaetz, a loyal member of Trump’s palace guard defenders, threw Stewart under the bus during an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday.
“I don’t think Tim Kaine’s ever lost an election. I don’t expect that to change,” Gaetz stressed.
The feuding is reminiscent of the Roy Moore fiasco during the Alabama special election for the U.S. Senate last year. There, Trump stubbornly refused to disown the candidate accused of sexual abuse, while most Republican leaders were busy trying to sprint away from him.
That type of feud is unfolding again, in Virginia.