VIRGINIA | VA-gov

Neither Camp Saw Wave Coming

Both campaign managers stood by their strategies.

Nov. 14, 2017, 11:10 a.m.

“The men who ran Virginia’s gubernatorial campaigns” said at a Virginia Public Access Project forum on Monday that “the Democratic wave that swept Ralph Northam into the governor’s mansion and ousted a dozen Republican state lawmakers last week came as a surprise to them.

Chris Leavitt, campaign manager for former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie (R): “We saw some signs of course … but we never saw it get to where it was. … We were at a place where this insurgence of voters, this intensity, was unstoppable.”

Northam manager Brad Komar: “I didn’t see the wave in June; I saw it three days beforehand. … We were in the middle of a serious wave, and it was coming. Period. … There was only so much we could have done.”

“With President Trump deeply unpopular in Virginia, the Gillespie campaign tried to turn the focus away from national issues, Leavitt said. … Meanwhile, the Northam campaign counted as a success every day that Gillespie had to field a question about whether he would invite Trump onto the campaign trail, Komar said. But he added that during the Democratic primary, Trump posed a danger to Northam if his opponent, former congressman Tom Perriello was able to define himself as the anti-Trump candidate.”

“Leavitt said the polling [on Confederate statues] gave the Gillespie campaign an opportunity to attack Northam and seize an issue where they believed the Democrat was out of touch with voters. … Komar said the issue ended up moving few voters, noting about a third of the voters who wanted the statues to stay up still backed Northam.”

“Leavitt … said the [MS-13] commercials targeted independents and worked in the long-term since exit polls showed Gillespie narrowly winning that group. … Komar said the Northam camp did not see the [Latino Victory Fund] commercial before it aired. That prompted Eric Wilson, Gillespie’s digital director, to shout ‘Liar!’ from the audience.”

“Later in the evening, Komar dismissed as ‘both-sidesism’ any attempts to paint both campaigns’ ads as going over the line.

Komar: “I don’t believe the Enron Ed ad was the equivalent of putting General Lee on TV. … I don’t think we went as vitriolic as the other side.”

Leavitt: “I would respectfully disagree. These were policy differences. … Enron Ed was a personal attack on someone.”

“Both campaign managers praised new tools in the ever-evolving technology aimed at wooing voters. For Komar, it was mass-texting tools to mobilize voters right before Election Day. Leavitt called messages on Snapchats the ‘new yard signs’ for young voters.” (Washington Post)

“Explaining the Gillespie campaign’s decision to not invite Trump to Virginia to stump for Gillespie, Leavitt said his team didn’t want to ‘nationalize’ the race by shifting focus away from state policy issues and onto the president.”

“’Good luck,’ … Leavitt said … when asked what Virginia’s results might mean for Republicans running in the 2018 midterms. ‘Because it’s going to be a challenge. In Washington, there has to be some things that get done for voters.’” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

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