Donald Trump has become so toxically unpopular that Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia, doesn’t want Trump’s help despite being fairly far behind in the race with just three weeks to go. Instead, Mike Pence showed up and campaigned with Gillespie over the weekend. But it went so poorly that local attendees appear to have skipped it in favor of a wedding or two – and a local tractor pull event.
Trump keeps tweeting endorsements for Gillespie, but Gillespie keeps refusing to even so much as mention Trump’s name, presumably for fear that the association would cost him more votes than he might gain. Down by five points or more with time running out, Gillespie decided to take his chances with Pence. The trouble: hardly anyone bothered to show up to the rally.
Organizers were expecting a turnout of twelve hundred people but only ended up with around half that number according to their own count, which means it was probably even lower. Local Republicans then began making excuses for the low turnout, but had to reach pretty far down into the grab bag. Among the excuses they gave the Washington Post (link): two local weddings, televised college football, and – no kidding – a tractor pull at the fair. That’s right, they’re so desperate to explain their lack of turnout that they’re unwittingly claiming Mike Pence can’t compete with a tractor pull.
Even though Mike Pence faced the embarrassment of headlining a Republican Party campaign rally where hardly anyone showed up to see him, the real embarrassment here is reserved for Donald Trump. He’s been very loudly endorsing Ed Gillespie all month. Yet no matter bad Gillespie’s position has gotten, he still believes his best shot at winning is to pretend that Trump’s endorsement – and indeed Trump himself – don’t exist.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report