With all the recent controversy about Confederate memorials being pulled down, you might think Republican gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart was being shrewd by exploiting old-white-vote resentment over the issue in Civil War–drenched Virginia. But at present, it doesn’t seem to be doing much for the exurban local-government figure who’s tried to make himself into a Trump-like vehicle for protests against a GOP Establishment that is fully behind his opponent Ed Gillespie. According to a new Washington Post/George Mason poll, Stewart is trailing Gillespie by 20 points (38–18, with 15 percent going to State Senator Frank Wagner), and does not have a lot of money to catch up before the June 13 primary.
Virginia does not require receiving a majority of the primary vote to win a nomination, so Stewart can’t count on a second chance if Gillespie beats him but falls short of 50 percent.
He must be given credit for persistence, though. Stewart has pursued his argument that taking down Confederate memorials reflects the kind of p.c. culture that Trump opposes up to and beyond the gates of political prudence, as Politico noted:
“No Robert E. Lee monument should come down. That man is a hero & an honorable man. It is shameful what they are doing with these monuments,” he wrote in one Twitter missive, following up a few hours later: “After they tear down Lee & Beauregard, they are coming for Washington & Jefferson.” He added the hashtag #HistoricalVandalism.
When he hasn’t lamented the shoddy treatment of Southern heritage, he has compared the politicians who support removing statues to ISIS, the murderous Islamic extremists who have destroyed historic artifacts and religious sites throughout Syria. Or suggested that George Soros “needs to be tried for sedition, stripped of his citizenship or deported.” Or labeling his main opponent a “cuckservative,” the disdainful epithet of choice among the alt-right.
His particular focus on the City of Charlottesville’s decision to remove a Lee memorial has brought Stewart into uncomfortably close proximity to white supremacists, as became apparent when Richard Spencer led a torchlit march to the memorial last weekend.
Virtually every political figure in Virginia, including Gillespie and Wagner, condemned the marchers — except for Stewart, who remained silent. He then announced a “Facebook Live event” for Monday during which, after speculation that he might be dropping out of the race, he instead attacked his enemies and rivals again:
During the brief video stream from a tea party event in Northern Virginia, Stewart blasted “fake news,” GOP rival Ed Gillespie, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Dominion Energy and sanctuary cities. The video’s title was “It’s Time to Denounce.”
That is certainly something Stewart is ever-ready to do.
But his Trump-Heavy campaign does not seem to be working at all. The WaPo/GMU poll shows him only winning 15 percent of the likely GOP primary voters who “strongly approve” of Trump’s job performance. It isn’t clear how many Republicans are aware that Stewart was fired as the mogul’s Virginia campaign manager last October after he held an unauthorized rally at the RNC headquarters, in Washington, based on fears the national party might abandon its presidential nominee. They may have noticed, though, that Stewart’s campaign isn’t exactly getting any help from the White House or its political operatives.
Assuming Gillespie wins on June 13, Stewart’s campaign may be remembered as showing the limits of race-tinged attacks on “political correctness,” even among a very conservative electorate. Racist dog whistles are one thing. Howling at the moon while defending the Lost Cause is another thing altogether.