WASHINGTON — On the eve of a Virginia Beach rally with Vice President Mike Pence, Republican candidates are snubbing the administration and continuing to distance themselves from Donald Trump by refusing to say whether they’ll attend the event with their party’s second in command.
“Virginia Republicans’ complete silence surrounding the Pence rally speaks volumes. They don’t want him there,” said Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee press secretary Matt Harringer. “We are a little worried, though — that Mike Pence is going to feel very lonely.”
While Republican candidates are refusing to speak about the rally, the Republican State Leadership Committee is working to lower expectations in the commonwealth ahead of Tuesday’s election.
In a tweet Thursday night, RSLC President Austin Chambers lamented Republicans being outspent by Democrats, said his party should be proud for having “made this a real fight,” and encouraged their struggling candidates to “finish out strong.”
“Donald Trump and Mike Pence are talking about winning Virginia in 2020 while the RSLC is handing out participation trophies just for competing,” Harringer said. “We’ve never seen the party in power — the incumbents — set such a low bar for success. This is Virginia, a swing state, not California or New Jersey.”
Virginia Republicans have controlled at least one chamber of the legislature since 1996 — but are still lagging far behind Democrats. Democrats have outraised Republicans all year and have translated unprecedented grassroots fundraising into a robust GOTV program. Candidates have been excited to campaign with national Democratic figures and presidential candidates who have joined the effort, a clear sign of Democratic unity and momentum.
Trump’s toxic unpopularity in Virginia has forced Republicans to turn to Vice President Pence as their closer, but he’s just as unpopular as the president. It’s little surprise that Republican candidates in Hampton Roads are about to ghost Pence. None have publicly confirmed they’ll be appearing alongside their party leader tomorrow.
“Virginia Republicans have no message. They’re throwing everything at the wall — socialism, racism, Mike Pence — and hoping something sticks,” Harringer said. “Unfortunately for them, voters care about health care, gun safety and schools, and it’s clear they side with Democrats on these issues.”