SHARE

The liberal mainstream media, spearheaded by the Washington Post, are trying to confuse Virginia Republicans about the lessons of last month’s election and are overlooking key data points — like historic Democratic turnout, an increased Republican turnout, and a greater share of the minority vote for Ed Gillespie — to scare conservatives away from winning tactics.

I’ve seen too many Virginia Republicans fall for the myths that Ed Gillespie only ran a negative campaign, didn’t focus enough on policy, didn’t reach out to minority communities, and depending on your point of view, either embraced President Donald Trump too much or not enough.

None of these myths stand up to careful scrutiny of the facts, but they do fit the narrative of the national media. And as Virginia Republicans prepare to gather for this year’s Advance, we can’t let the media dictate our takeaways from this campaign.

Ed Gillespie did run on forward-thinking policy ideas and focused his campaign on positive messages about improving life for all Virginians.

Ed relied on 9 policy working groups that were formed in 2016 to help the campaign develop, detailed substantive policies. These groups were open to anyone who wanted to pitch in and incorporated an array of ideas. By November 7th, Ed had introduced 21 in-depth, actionable policy plans that addressed a range of issues from transportation, to education, to healthcare and the opioid crisis.

But, unfortunately, that’s not what the Washington Post and other major outlets chose to cover about Ed’s campaign. They only wanted to view the recent elections through the lens of Donald Trump and national politics. This was, sadly, a great disservice to the people of Virginia who will now miss out on the first state income tax cut in 40 years, $200 million in government spending cuts, more vigorous review of state regulations that prevent job creation, and the creation of 53,000 good-paying, full-time jobs.

Virginia’s voters deserved a governor’s election that was respectful and focused on ideas and solutions for how to get the Commonwealth’s economy back on track.

Sadly, as the frontrunner, Ralph Northam set the tone when he launched his campaign by calling President Trump a “narcissistic maniac.” His cheerleaders in the media were only too eager to follow suit.

Indeed, it is Ed who has been vocally criticized by the Left, the media, and some within our own party for running a negative campaign, but the facts say otherwise. The Gillespie campaign spent twice as much on ads about tax cuts, jobs, the economy and ethics than on ads highlighting the consequences of Ralph Northam’s support for sanctuary cities.

For all the ink spilled over the anti-illegal immigration ads, you’d be hard pressed to find coverage of the Gillespie campaign’s ads educating Virginians about Ralph Northam’s failure to show up for his current job as Lieutenant Governor. In fact, these ads received more airtime than anything dealing with immigration.

Still others point to Ed’s TV ads in support of keeping Civil War monuments in place as evidence of a racially-charged dog whistle campaign. To do so you must set aside that just 4% of the campaign’s TV ad dollars were behind the statue ads and the fact that Ed took the side of a majority of Virginians and the underreported fact that Ed’s position on statues is the same as Governor Terry McAuliffe’s.

Such facts didn’t fit the media’s narrative about this race. And that’s why they didn’t report on the TV ad highlighting Ed’s commitment to closing the achievement gap in our public schools which aired fully 36% more times than any ads about monuments.

African American voters didn’t buy into the media’s spin and Ed earned 12% of the black vote, an increase from 10% in his 2014 campaign, and far more than the 9% Donald Trump received just last year.

It would be a betrayal of our principles as conservatives if we allow liberals to have the last word on the lessons of this election, because they want to distract us from the winning model the Gillespie campaign laid out for future candidates: focus on policy, don’t attack your opponents’ characters, and work as hard as you can until every last vote has been cast.

The numbers, after all, speak for themselves. Ed Gillespie won the most votes of any candidate for governor in Virginia history — except for one: Governor-elect Ralph Northam, who was the beneficiary of historic Democrat turnout. Gillespie earned the most Hispanic and African American votes of any Republican running statewide in an off year in Virginia in recent memory, and Gillespie turned out nearly 100,000 more Republicans who typically don’t vote in off-year elections.

Not to mention Ed Gillespie received 100,000 more votes than the current governor of Virginia did in 2013, and even got more votes than former Governor Bob McDonnell who won by an incredible 18 points in 2009.

It’s a campaign I was proud to be a part of.


Eric Wilson led the social media team for Ed Gillespie for Governor.