Gillespie Catches Up

by Rich Lowry

Ed Gillespie has been catching up in the Virginia gubernatorial race. One piece of evidence: that the lousy attack ad that Alexandra wrote about earlier ran in the first place was a sign of desperation (and apparently was a reaction to Northam’s relative weak numbers with minority voters). Another piece of evidence: the Washington Post, whose polling in Virginia historically runs cold for Republican candidates, now has Gillespie back by just 5 points, a margin that isn’t statistically significant.

The Daily 202 notes some of the numbers:

Voters split about evenly when asked whom they trust to handle illegal immigration, but Gillespie has an eight-percentage-point edge on trust to handle “crime and public safety.”

Gillespie trailed by more than 20 points at the beginning of October in the swing-voting Northern Virginia exurbs that encompass Loudoun County. Now he’s tied with Northam at 44 percent.

Among self-identified conservatives, Gillespie’s lead over Northam grew from 56 points to 69 points.

Gillespie’s lead among white voters without college degrees has increased from 25 points to 35 points. (Trump won this group by 47 points in 2016 exit polls.)

Gillespie’s supporters have caught up to Northam’s in motivation to vote and in attention to the race. Among registered voters, an identical 71 percent of both Northam and Gillespie supporters say they are certain to vote or have already done so, a shift from four weeks ago, when Northam backers had a nearly 10-point edge on this measure.

Gillespie has been taking grief for defending Confederate monuments and focusing on MS-13. He should be defended on both counts. I’m not a fan of the monuments, but saying that they should stay up is hardly a radical position, since  it wasn’t until the last couple of months that there has been a serious push to take them down and the polling strongly backs Gillespie. As for MS-13, it is a serious menace. If this gang can’t be held up as what our criminal justice system should be fighting — and what’s been wrong with our immigration system — what can? 

Gillespie has a very substantive economic agenda, but tax cuts and economic development aren’t enough to move voters alone. This is something that Chamber of Commerce-type Republicans tend to forget, but a winning Republican message needs to have a cultural element. Heck, even nice, patrician George H. W. Bush went after Michael Dukakis on crime and the Pledge of Allegiance

Gillespie has run an excellent, tough but in-bounds campaign that, amazingly enough, has him within shooting distance of victory despite that fact that the party that holds the White House always loses the Virginia gubernatorial race and President Trump is quite unpopular. Here’s wishing him the best of luck next week. He’d be a great governor.

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