“Gillespie has a real balancing act, if Trump comes,” according to Professor Bob Denton, the founding director of the Rice Center for Leader Development and department head of the Virginia Tech Department of Communication. “Trump may pull more Democrats to come out to vote, so it’s a risky decision.”
Gillespie trails Democrat Ralph Northam in most polls, but the deficit is well within the margin of error, and neither candidate polls at more than 50 percent. Denton predicts the race will continue to tighten as we get closer to election day, November 7.
“An endorsement from former Republican rival Corey Stewart may be more important for Gillespie, all things considered,” said Denton. “A genuine and sincere endorsement from Stewart can certainly help energize the Republican base, especially in Southside and Southwest Virginia.”
Attacks on the increase
Denton predicts the tone of the campaign will be much more negative in the final weeks.
“Third party money will likely mean more attack ads. At this point, the candidates have to get people to vote against the other person. So we are likely to see increases in negative attacks, not just in advertising, but also by the candidates themselves. It’s going to become more intense.”
Denton downplays the national relevance of the Virginia race, both as a referendum on Trump and an indicator for mid-term elections in 2018.
“In terms of national attention, yes it will get it. At this point, will it reveal a whole lot? That’s uncertain.”