Reporter Laura Vozzella has reported on some of the issues the Muckraker addressed in our November 9 post regarding the implications of the presidential contest on Virginia’s upcoming race for governor.
We speculated that Trump’s loss in Virginia, the apparent number of Republican or Republican-leaning independents who voted for third party candidates, and a failure of Tim Kaine’s Senate seat to open up for a special election in 2017 and thin the Republican field for Governor, all might combine to make BOCS Chair Corey Stewart’s run for governor a little more difficult. On the flip-side we noted that a crowded field of more moderate Republicans in the governor’s race might benefit Stewart by splitting the moderate vote in a primary.
In a post after Stewart was fired from the Trump campaign we gave more weight to the latter, but in the November 9 piece about a month later we gave more weight to the former. Vozzella’s article seems to give more weight to the split primary benefiting Stewart, but then she reports on something we had not considered at all – a strong negative reaction to Stewart from the Trump forces.
Stewart is quoted as making some very harsh statements that take us in Prince William back to the darkest days of the 2007 illegal immigration debate. According to Vozzella, Stewart says:
“If you’re an illegal alien in Prince William County, I’d get out. It’s the very first thing I’m going to do with a friendly Trump administration. Now we’re going to find out where each and every one of these guys is, and we’re going to hunt them down and we’re going to deport them.”
Who knows how long Stewart and the reporter spoke. Interviews like this can be lengthy and only a sentence or two gets reported, so maybe there is some context here we’re missing. But there’s no denying this is very different language from the language Stewart used during his re-election campaign in 2015.
Then Vozzella springs a surprise the Muckraker never anticipated – a harsh condemnation of Stewart from the Trump staff itself.
Back in July Stewart had succumbed to hyperbole that was denounced by the Trump campaign when he blamed Hillary Clinton and Lt. Governor Ralph Northam for the police massacre in Dallas. Later, as we all know, he was fired by the Trump campaign for participating in a pro-Trump rally outside the RNC. Both, we thought, were calculated political moves both by Stewart and the Trump campaign that reflected only surface tensions. Apparently we were wrong, and those tensions run much deeper.
According to Vozzella, Trump’s senior Virginia adviser Mike Rubino says that Stewart should not expect support from Trump. The language Rubino uses is very strong:
“To be honest, Mr. Trump doesn’t even know who Corey Stewart is. He went rogue. He never followed orders. He never did what the campaign asked him to do. He was so preoccupied with running for governor that we had to fire him. . . . Thus guy was a cancer to the organization in Virginia and we’ve been paying for it ever since.”
We’re not sure what to make of this. It’s hard to spin in a positive way for Stewart the comment that “[t]his guy was a cancer to the organization in Virginia.” Does it reflect a deep-seated animosity toward Stewart in the Trump cadre? Is Trump wary of those who he thinks are trying to grab the spotlight away from him or using his coattails to their own advantage? Or is it something we had not anticipated – that Trump may actually be serious about uniting the country and figuring out ways to work with a broader coalition. The last may work against Stewart.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that Trump’s cadre harbors no deep-seated animosity toward Stewart, or if it does, it will wane with time. All this nevertheless raises the prospect that if Trump is really serious about uniting the country or figuring out ways to work with a broader coalition that he might chose to look more favorably on figures like Wittman and Gillespie, rather than Stewart. This could be a genuine desire on Trump’s part, it could be political calculus designed to broaden his appeal, or it could be an ultimate reaction to successes or failures related to Trump’s first six months in office. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine how Rubino’s statements could be a positive for Stewart’s gubernatorial ambitions.
Curiouser and curiouser.