What went wrong for Ed Gillespie?

Hank Hayes • Nov 19, 2017 at 9:00 PM

There’s something Republicans may want to steer clear of in the future — something called “racialized campaign rhetoric.”

The African American Research Collaborative (AARC), in a conference call with reporters, suggested the African American vote in the Virginia gubernatorial race “shifted significantly” in favor of Democrat Gov.-elect Ralph Northam in the last 30 days leading up to the election.

The finding was based on election eve polling of the African American electorate.

AARC noted the impact of Charlottesville, Confederate statues, felon disenfranchisement and negative MS-13 ads didn’t bode well for defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie.

“Attitudes about such rhetoric divide us in predictable ways among the respondents we have in our surveys. … If you’re looking at views regarding Confederate monuments, Ed Gillespie’s stance on this particular issue made him less popular among voters of color, particularly among black women and those over the age of 40,” said Ray Block, AARC member and political science professor at the University of Kentucky. “ … We looked at (President) Trump’s response to Charlottesville, and it’s also not surprising the vast majority of African Americans did not believe that Trump’s response to these protests involving a rally of white supremacists and white nationalists that turned violent … was not strong enough.”

Block noted African Americans — who comprise the largest minority vote in Virginia — voted for Northam by 81 points.

“Northam won big in counties with heavy African American population,” Block added. “Trump support was especially low among black Virginia residents and obviously higher among white residents. This leads to further evidence of Trump’s ability to polarize voters. … Black support for Northam intensified for Northam as the election drew nearer. … It should not be a surprise at all that Trump was unpopular with black voters, and it should not be a surprise that a candidate who supported Trump-like ideas was not going to gain a lot of support among African Americans.”

What about that controversial Latino Victory Fund TV ad showing a white man driving a truck (with a Gillespie bumper sticker) with a Confederate flag and chasing kids of color? Did that ad actually work for Northam?

AARC didn’t do any polling about that ad, said Henry Fernandez, the conference call’s moderator.

Still, State Voices Executive Director Roger Vann called the Democrat sweep, including Northam’s victory, “a perfect storm” in Virginia.

“There was a high investment of resources in the state, about a quarter of a million voter registrations were filed over the last couple of years … about 50,000 former incarcerated voters, mostly African American, were registered,” Vann told reporters.

The day before the election, four out of five polls listed on www.realclearpolitics.com had Northam up six points or less over Gillespie. Only one, Quinnipiac, had Northam up nine points. Northam’s victory by nine points was declared around 9 p.m. on election night.

“It was a consensus by polling that Northam was only two to three points up. … Gillespie played disturbing games on race and this came back to haunt him,” Fernandez insisted.