Jackson, who beat six better-funded, better-known candidates at a May convention to become the GOP ticket’s surprise No. 2, has been taking his own steps to keep the Republican Party at arm’s length.
The Chesapeake pastor has rebuffed the party’s suggestion that he tone down his rhetoric and steer clear of hot-button issues — much to the delight of his grassroots supporters, the frustration of some GOP loyalists and the surprise of almost no one. (Related: E.W. Jackson: In his own words)
More unexpectedly, Jackson has refused the party’s nuts-and-bolts logistical help, choosing not to tap into resources that include the GOP’s trove of voter data and more than 40 field offices around the state, according to four Republican operatives.
While the top of the ticket mostly talks jobs, Jackson has pushed his “liberty agenda,” which calls for limiting the federal government’s reach, promoting gun rights, and resisting “Obamacare.” And as he rejects the party’s messaging and logistical aid, some Republicans fear that he could not only handicap his own prospects but hurt the GOP nominee for governor, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, with moderates and conservatives alike.
Jackson’s continued outspokenness — last month he called the Democratic Party the “anti-God party” for supporting abortion rights and gay marriage — could reflect on the whole Republican ticket and turn swing voters away, the GOP strategists said.
At the same time, Jackson’s decision to pass up basic ground-game help could discourage the Republicans’ tea party wing, which embraces his calls for limiting government, defending religious freedom, promoting school choice and defunding Planned Parenthood. If the party base sees Jackson struggling and concludes the GOP establishment snubbed him rather than the other way around, it might not turn out in droves for Cuccinelli, who is in a tight race with former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe.
“Their campaign seems to want to do their own thing,” said one of the operatives, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss a sensitive intra-party matter. “People have reached out to E.W.’s campaign and that help has been rejected.”
Said another strategist: “There’s a very strong anti-establishment vein in this. They are laying the groundwork actively to blame somebody else — the establishment — for losing.”
A representative for the Jackson campaign declined to comment on whether the campaign was taking advantage of the party’s voter data and logistical help, saying he would not respond to anonymous comments.
Candidates for virtually any public office rely on their state parties for help identifying which voters to target with phone calls, home visits and mailings. State Republican and Democratic parties, with funding from their national counterparts, also provide field offices around Virginia where individual campaigns can operate phone banks, make photocopies and use office supplies.