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Opinion Gillespie breaks the hypocrisy meter

Republican Ed Gillespie and Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam are running in this year's closely watched race for Virginia governor. (Video: Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)
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After running “Willie Horton”-style ads featuring menacing Hispanic gang members, whipping up the phony issue of sanctuary cities (which don’t exist in the state) and turning into a Confederate statue-hugger, Ed Gillespie, the GOP nominee for Virginia governor, has decided to bring into the state two prominent Hispanic leaders, both of whom favor immigration reform. No, really.

The Post reports:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will campaign for Gillespie in northern Virginia next Monday, headlining a get-out-the-vote rally in Sterling, a D.C. exurban town in swing Loudoun County. The event is free and open to the public.
It will come days after New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R), the nation’s first elected Latina governor, is scheduled Thursday to appear with Gillespie at business roundtables and a luncheon in northern Virginia. … On Tuesday, Latino groups announced they would air Spanish language radio ads in Virginia urging voters to support the Democratic ticket.

Gillespie’s strategy seems as desperate as it is cynical. Those Trump voters in southwest Virginia sure don’t want to see Rubio — whom then-candidate Donald Trump mocked mercilessly in the 2016 race — in their state. (What’s Rubio going to say if asked about immigration or Trump’s incessant race-baiting? I suspect he’ll be hard for the press to reach.)

Republican Ed Gillespie released this campaign ad Sept. 20. Gillespie is running against Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in the Virginia governor’s race. (Video: Ed Gillespie/YouTube)

Then there is Martinez, whom Trump denigrated during the campaign. (After Martinez was attacked by Trump, her spokesman declared, “The Governor will not be bullied into supporting a candidate until she is convinced that candidate will fight for New Mexicans.”) I don’t imagine that she is going to energize members of Gillespie’s base, either. They’ve been gobbling up ads that make Hispanic immigrants out to be murderous gang members.

Gillespie’s cynical manipulation of two Hispanic pols may wind up convincing those Trump voters that he’s a slick Beltway establishment pol trying to pretend he is one of “them.” Meanwhile, Gillespie’s some-of-my-best-friends-are-Hispanic stunt is unlikely to win him support in Northern Virginia, where his Trump imitation has dismayed and disgusted Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans. With his cheerleading for Confederate statues, refusal to repudiate Trump and anti-immigrant rhetoric, Gillespie has likely alienated Northern Virginia voters for good. Indeed, they may wonder why supposedly inclusive Republicans and prominent Hispanic conservatives would be giving Gillespie cover after his disreputable ad campaign.

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Democrats are having a ball with Gillespie’s desperation move. The Post reported:

“Gotta sting that Ed would rather campaign with Lil Marco than you, @realDonaldTrump,” tweeted Northam press secretary Ofirah Yheskel, referring to Trump’s nickname for his former rival during the primary.
Trump tweeted an endorsement of Gillespie, but has not indicated any plans to hit the campaign trail for him and Gillespie has been demurred when asked if he wants the president to stump for him in a state where his approval ratings are below 40 percent.

The Gillespie camp is no doubt praying that Trump won’t take the bait — or show up in the state, where his approval hovers in the mid-30s.

Had Gillespie run as the same pro-immigration, middle-of-the-road Republican he was in President George W. Bush’s White House or during his 2014 Senate run (which he narrowly lost), appearing with Rubio and Martinez would have made sense. That mainstream campaign might have even leveled the playing field considerably in moderate enclaves (Northern Virginia, the Tidewater region) with large chunks of the electorate. Now Rubio’s and Martinez’s 11th-hour appearances sound yet another discordant note in a campaign that has featured a candidate disingenuously attempting to be both an alt-right sympathizer and the face of a new, more diverse Virginia.