Then, Jackson added, with a preacher’s easy, well-honed delivery, “I’m thinking to myself, every time you open your mouth, I clutch my pocketbook.”
Roars of approval and long, lingering laughter came from the crowd.
The Republican candidate for lieutenant governor knows how to give his supporters the supercharged rhetoric they love. But on Tuesday he faces a tougher test in a debate in Arlington with Democratic candidate Ralph S. Northam, a state senator and child neurologist from Norfolk. It will be the first high-stakes opportunity for Jackson to present himself to a large audience in politically crucial Northern Virginia. And he’ll be doing it in front of a mixed crowd, leaving Jackson partisans and Democratic opponents wondering how his brand of politics will play.
Depending on who’s listening, Jackson’s mastery of the incendiary zinger is a sign of spiritual and ideological purity or of a divisive mean streak. He’s said that gay people’s “minds are perverted. They are frankly very sick people psychologically”; cited the “genocide” of tens of millions of aborted black babies to argue that “Planned Parenthood has been far more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was”; and in a sermon Sunday said non-Christians are following “some sort of false religion.”
It was an anti-Obama, anti-
establishment roar from Virginia’s conservative activists at the state’s GOP convention in May that put the obscure minister from Chesapeake in the No. 2 spot on the Republican ticket.
As the campaign enters its final weeks, Republicans are wrestling with the political realities of the party’s decision to nominate a relative unknown with limited political experience but plenty of political baggage. Some fear Jackson could weigh down Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli II, himself a longtime tea party favorite whose campaign has emphasized appeals to more- moderate Republicans and independents in a purple state that voted twice for Obama.
A new Washington Post/Abt-SRBI poll finds a tight race for lieutenant governor, with likely voters split 45 percent for Northam and 42 percent for Jackson. The difference is within the poll’s five-percentage-point margin of error. The results were identical in the race for attorney general: 45 percent for Democrat Mark R. Herring and 42 percent for Republican Mark D. Obenshain.
Seven in 10 likely voters plan to vote for the same party in all three statewide contests, including governor. But in a key difference from the governor’s race, both down-ballot Republicans hold slight edges among self-described independents, helping blunt a Democratic tilt in the state since last year.