Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates debated last night in Tysons Corner. I watched from one of the many RPV field offices who were showing the debate. Republican Ed Gillespie did a fine job while his Democrat opponent Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam struggled to offer clear answers.
Gillespie began with a strong opening statement that focused on Virginia, a theme he continued to speak on throughout the evening. Then Northam mentioned that there are contrasts between the two candidates on economic policies, but failed to point out the differences.
The first question came from moderator Chuck Todd and it was on the monuments, which was disappointing because I was hoping for a policy debate on issues that actually effect people. But as disappointed as I was, from a strategy perspective this was a good question because Gillespie knows how to answer it while Northam offered a stammering response that left us confused on his position. Northam said he wanted to have a “discussion” during a discussion on the topic, which is very odd. I’m mean, what was he waiting for? Northam obviously didn’t want to take a firm position, Gillespie said keep the monuments.
I don’t know what to make of Gillespie’s suggestion that we build a monument to Douglas Wilder. No commentary for now as that is still processing. I hope he meant Barbara Johns.
Then the pipeline came up. Sounded to me that Northam likes the pipeline. His liberal base won’t like that and these off-year elections are base elections, so I suggest telling your Democrat friends Northam said he would ok the pipeline. But to be fair, his answer was so hopelessly vague that even Chuck Todd said he didn’t understand it. Gillespie said build it.
As the debate continued a common message began to appear. All of the questions were answered by Gillespie with a discussion about Virginia, while Northam continued to place his answers in Washington DC. Of course, Virginia’s Governor’s Mansion is in Richmond, so it’s safe to say that Gillespie did a better job. Clearly the plan from the Democrats was just to show their hate for President Trump in a resist everything mode. So much emotions from the Democrats right now and Northam is playing to it, not leading out of it.
Republican Ed Gillespie’s focus on Virginia is a wise choice. Democrat Ralph Northam’s focus on on using the bully pulpit to talk about DC is out of place.