- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Whoa. Virginia Republican Ed Gillespie’s timing looks right this time.

He came within a few heartbeats (less than a single percentage point) of beating Democrat incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Warner in 2014.

But at least the broken-hearted Mr. Gillespie could boast a 10 percentage-point edge over Mr. Warner among white educated voters — the category where President Trump is a bit weak.

This year, Mr. Gillespie is running for governor.

Polls — which sometimes get it right — point to his easily defeating lesser-known GOP primary challengers Frank Wagner and Corey Stewart on June 13. If so, Mr. Gillespie will face either Ralph Northam or Tom Perriello on Nov. 7. Neither Democrat seems likely to reach even Sen. Warner’s relative general-election strength of four years ago.

And this time Mr. Gillespie will — OK, make that “should” or “could” — enjoy a boost from President Trump. Why from a president with a job approval rating in the low 40s?

Cliché warning!

It’s jobs, Mr. Stupid! (The use of honorifics is a way of life in this news organization.)

Mr. Gillespie noted on Wednesday that S&P Global has lowered its rating for Virginia to negative, in part because employment by federal contractors is way down.

How’s that possible, after eight years of what critics said was President Obama’s big-spending liberalism?

Virginia still leads the nation in defense-industry jobs. But the Democratic president’s cuts in military spending really hit shipbuilding and related defense jobs hard in the state.

In stark contrast (is there any other kind?), Mr. Trump wants to build lots of new warships and to spend on the military in general like a — well, like a Mr. Obama mugged by the realities of Russia, Korea and Iran.

That’s why Mr. Gillespie should be able to dovetail his campaign pitch with Mr. Trump’s agenda for a gubernatorial win.

Yeah, yeah, we know there’s not a reliable correlation between gubernatorial election outcomes and the presidency. Think GOP Gov. Larry Hogan in Democrat-flooded Maryland or Democrat Gov. Steve Bullock in Montana, which has a 51-39 partisan split favoring the GOP.

But if it’s still “Jobs, Mr. Stupid!”

You can’t beat the matchup of Mr. Trump’s dedication to military spending and Mr. Gillespie’s campaign needs.

Mr. Gillespie gets it all right. He quoted the S&P’s rating change language as saying that “state data demonstrate that recent job growth has been predominately in lower paying occupations, and continued decline in federal contractors … “

But as a Republican he feels obligated to talk small government, not big, and spending restraint, not profligacy. So Mr. Gillespie offers a solution that doesn’t mention a word about more spending for the military or for anything else, for that matter.

Instead, Mr. Gillespie wants “to cut individual income tax rates across the board” to fire up job growth.

Does that mean there’s a spot between a rock and you-know-what for anyone running as conservative and who wants to support more military spending but also wants to sound fiscally responsible?

Sure. But watch that spot soften and disappear as the general election approaches.

• Ralph Z. Hallow, chief political writer at The Washington Times, has covered Washington since 1982.

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