RICHMOND — Vice President Pence has endorsed Rep. Dave Brat (R) — and vouched for President Trump’s backing — in his tight race against Democrat Abigail Spanberger in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District.
Pence’s endorsement, announced on Twitter late Wednesday, signaled Trump’s support without the president weighing in directly. Conveying Trump’s backing by way of Pence, who was considered a steady establishment figure before he teamed up with Trump, might animate the president’s fans in rural regions of the district without inflaming Trump critics in suburban areas.
“PROUD to support @DaveBratVA7th — a conservative champion who fights everyday for a balanced budget, a strong national defense & a secure border. @RealDonaldTrump and I are with you! #MAGA,” tweeted Pence, who also headlined a fundraiser for Brat on Wednesday night.
Brat’s reply — “Thank you, VP @mike_pence for your support!” — made no mention of Trump.
Brat and Spanberger are walking a fine line when it comes to Trump, whose popularity is mixed in a central Virginia district just outside Richmond, a mix of bright-red farming communities and suburban swing territory.
Spanberger noted Pence’s appearance for Brat in a fundraising appeal without knocking the vice president or Trump.
“The race is now a tie, and Abigail is gaining strength, so to save his campaign, Rep. Brat is depending on help from outside Super PACs and D.C. Republicans — all the way up to the White House,” it said. “We may not have the sitting Vice President raising money for us — but we do have this community of supporters. Let’s counter Rep. Brat’s coming haul with our biggest day of grassroots fundraising yet.”
Brat’s fundraiser took place at the Northern Virginia home of Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a former chief Washington lobbyist for Koch Industries. His wife, Mercedes, is the director of strategic communications at the White House and together they form a power couple within conservative Republican political circles. Tickets ranged from $250 for individuals to $1,000 for political action committees, according to an invitation posted on Politico.
On Monday, former president Barack Obama and former vice president Joe Biden endorsed Spanberger.
Brat, who won the seat four years ago after toppling then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the GOP primary, faces a tough challenger in Spanberger, a former CIA officer making her first bid for elective office.
A Monmouth University poll released last week found Spanberger leading Brat 47 percent to 42 percent among all potential voters in the district, a longtime GOP stronghold that is a mix of Richmond suburbs and rural areas. The poll found that 2 percent favor Libertarian Joe Walton, and 9 percent are undecided.
Brat was a little-known Randolph-Macon College economics professor with tea party backing when he pulled off his stunning primary upset over Cantor. He won reelection two years ago by 15 percentage points.
The Cook Political Report classifies the race as a toss-up.