Do Corey Stewart’s Confederate Antics Help Ed Gillespie or Hurt the GOP Brand?

In States, Voting On
- Updated

By embracing Confederate symbols and flirting with the alt-right, Corey Stewart seems, to many political analysts, to be handing the GOP nomination for Virginia governor to rival Ed Gillespie.

Some also think Stewart is damaging the Republican brand in a way that could hurt Gillespie’s chances in November — in a general election that could reverberate beyond the Old Dominion.

“The rest of the country’s looking at us and saying, ‘Look at these hicks in Virginia!’ ” said Brian W. Schoeneman, a Virginia political analyst and blogger who served in the George W. Bush administration. “They don’t realize that he’s not representative of the broader GOP and the vast majority of us — including Ed — are looking at him with horror.”

But Stewart says defending Confederate symbols against “political correctness” is not just a cause, it’s a winning strategy in an off-year primary.

“It’s a very small turnout election — we’re talking maybe 4 or 5 percent of the entire voter base,” he said. “So you’ve got a certain percentage of the electorate who are going to vote on abortion. You’ve got a certain percentage of the electorate who are going to vote on illegal immigration. And then there’s going to be a percentage who will vote on the historical-monuments issue. Pretty soon, you add them all up and it’s a significant portion of people.”

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