ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Ed Gillespie has a tricky road ahead of him as he campaigns for Virginia governor this year.
The Republican nominee wants to talk about state issues, not President Trump, not Russia and certainly not what’s on Twitter.
But Democrats hope to make the race, one of the few significant elections this fall, a referendum on Trump. The latest sign is that former President Obama has already decided to campaign for the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam. Obama isn’t coming to campaign for Northam because he wants to discuss the state budget. He’s going to come and talk about the man in the Oval Office.
And Gillespie can’t easily distance himself from the Republican president. He barely won the Republican primary, almost losing to another Republican candidate who imitated Trump’s style and approach to issues. That candidate, Corey Stewart, received 155,466 votes, and Gillespie eked out a victory with a few thousand more.
Without a good number of those Stewart voters on his side, Gillespie won’t have much of a chance on Nov. 7. The first poll of the general election showed Gillespie trailing Northam by eight points.
And Democratic turnout was enormous in the primary. A total of 540,000 Democrats voted in the primary, compared to just 360,000 Republicans. That suggests Gillespie is facing a potential tsunami of anti-Trump sentiment.
In an interview with Yahoo News at his office here just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., Gillespie, a longtime Republican operative and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, gave a preview of how he’ll try to navigate these challenges. He said that he voted for Trump for president and hopes he can pass policies that help Virginians, but also took some effort to note that it’s “not my job” to “always be for the president or always be against the president.”
“It’s to always be for Virginia,” he said. “Clearly I supported [Trump], but I look at everything through a…