ABINGDON, Va. — Vice President Pence flew to the farthest, reddest nook of Virginia on Saturday to induce coal-country voters who got here out in droves for President Trump final yr to do the identical for Republican gubernatorial contender Ed Gillespie.
“The president sent me here to ask the people of Virginia to do everything in your power to elect Ed Gillespie as your next governor of Virginia,” Pence instructed a half-filled exhibition corridor on the Washington County Fairgrounds in southwest Virginia.
In a picturesque however economically depressed county that gave Trump 75 p.c of the vote in November, Pence’s look was meant to excite rural voters for Gillespie, an institution determine who’s in a neck-and-neck race in opposition to Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D).
Theirs is the nation’s solely aggressive governor’s race this yr, drawing nationwide consideration and cash.
Some see the race as a potential early referendum on Trump and a preview of subsequent yr’s congressional midterm elections.
A former Republican Nationwide Committee chairman, Washington lobbyist and counselor to President George W. Bush, Gillespie has been cool towards the president. He wants Trump voters to have any likelihood of successful a purple state that has not given the GOP a statewide win since 2009.
Gillespie has been on the lookout for methods to fireplace up Trump’s base with out dropping moderates and inflaming Democrats in Northern Virginia. It has been an ungainly dance at occasions, as Gillespie has sought to string the needle on such points as transgender lavatory use, Accomplice monuments and unlawful immigration.
Enter Mike Pence, the buttoned-down, businesslike former governor of Indiana, a person with close-cropped white hair and a private reserve so profound that he declines to dine or meet alone with any lady who is just not his spouse. He’s Trump’s second-in-command, however Gillespie is comfy with him.
Pence and his spouse, Karen, have been associates for years with Gillespie and his spouse, Cathy. Karen Pence appeared at a “Women for Ed” fundraiser for Gillespie in Fairfax in September.
Pence in contrast Gillespie to Trump plenty of occasions in his 24-minute tackle.
“Ed Gillespie is fighting for the lifeblood of southwest Virginia,” Pence mentioned. “Like President Trump, Ed digs coal.”
Pence described Trump as a “friend to Ed Gillespie,” promising the administration would minimize earnings taxes throughout the board nationally, simply as Gillespie needs to chop state earnings taxes by 10 p.c.
Trump endorsed Gillespie simply over every week earlier in a nighttime tweet that appeared to catch Gillespie and White Home employees abruptly. Gillespie didn’t retweet and even acknowledge it till reporters requested him about it the next day. Gillespie mentioned he didn’t take into account the president’s endorsement of a fellow Republican newsworthy.
Trump touted Gillespie once more in a tweet Saturday, saying: “The Democrats in the Southwest part of Virginia have been abandoned by their Party. Republican Ed Gillespie will never let you down!”
Gillespie made no point out of it, however Pence introduced it to the gang.
The gang was enthusiastic, shouting “USA! USA!” as Pence took and left the stage, but it surely was far smaller than the 1,200 that organizers had anticipated. Gillespie’s marketing campaign put the quantity at about 600.
Emma Clark, a Republican activist, labored the telephones earlier within the day to attempt to drum up extra attendees. She and others mentioned it was arduous to compete with different actions on a phenomenal Saturday, together with soccer, searching and the marriage of two native Republican leaders, which drew plenty of GOP activists as visitors. A tractor pull befell on the fairgrounds simply because the rally kicked off.
“That doesn’t mean they’re not going to come out to vote,” mentioned Augustus Chafin, 23, son of state Sen. A. Benton Chafin Jr. (R-Russell).
The gang greeted Gillespie warmly and let loose its largest cheer when he talked about Trump by title, one thing the candidate usually avoids doing in a purple state that went for Hillary Clinton by 5 factors.
“I want to thank [Pence] and want to thank President Trump for repealing the Clean Power Plan here,” Gillespie mentioned to cheers.
Some rally attendees mentioned they wished the understated Gillespie would undertake Trump’s swaggering model. He practically misplaced the June 13 main to Prince William County Supervisor Corey A. Stewart (R-At Massive), a Trump acolyte who derided him as “Establishment Ed.”
“He’s too polite,” mentioned Clark, 79.
However Wayne Stevens, a machinist and cattle farmer sporting overalls and a cowboy hat, was all in for Gillespie. “I think he’s more for the working man [than Northam],” Stevens mentioned.