An Amazing Theory of Why Ed Gillespie's "Campaign" Missed Northam's Blackface/KKK Pictures

Gov. Ralph Northam delivers State of the Commonwealth speech
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam gives his second State of the Commonwealth Speech before 140 members of the 2019 General Assembly, on Jan. 9.

(PHOTO: Livestream) Public domain image via VCU Capital News Service


The 2017 Virginia governor’s race between Republican Ed Gillespie and Bill Kristol-supported Democrat Ralph Northam was bitter. The election was considered some kind of a proxy for defeating Trump and a lot of money was expended on the race.

And it was ugly. Remember this classic:

So the question is how did Gillespie’s campaign miss the Ralph Northam either in blackface or a KKK costume, yesterday he couldn’t recall which one he was, which could have gone a long way towards neutralizing Northam’s racebaiting? This was one theory that was floated by the Washington Post’s “fact checker.”

Now a couple of people I really respect came on line to shoot this down:

You are nodding your head in agreement. Surely, you think, there is no possible scenario where a campaign could have had this material on its opponent and not used it. Could. Not. Happen. Here is where we go down the rabbit hole.

Having observed a boat-load of GOP campaigns over the years, I find nothing at all implausible about the Gillespie campaign having the material and deciding not to use it. From what I’ve seen of Vichy Republicans in action at fairly close range, I’d actually be more shocked if it was used than finding it wasn’t. In fact, one of the reasons Kessler gives as to why the story might be false is actually one of the reasons why Gillespie might have decided not to use it.

In a racially charged campaign, would Gillespie want to be accused of trying to depress black turnout? Could he even be sure the press wouldn’t ignore the images and savage him (more than they were) for employing a “dirty trick” to distract voters from the lofty issues at stake…like would Gillespie supporters actually chase black and Hispanic kids with their pickups?

During the 1992 campaign, I was a military aide to an assistant secretary in one of the cabinet departments and all of my counterparts were Bush Schedule C appointees. Through them, I became acquainted with some senior people on the Bush campaign team. There was tons of oppo on Bill Clinton and his horndogging and the fights between Bill and Hillary on the campaign trail and some really salacious stuff on Hillary’s extra-curricular activities but the Bush campaign elected not to use it in large part because Bush was still stinging from the Willie Horton ad. So finding a GOP campaign acting against its own interests for the sake of being a noble loser isn’t new. I would submit the 2008 McCain campaign had as its objective to be a gracious loser to the first viable black presidential candidate. I’ve never really been convinced Mitt Romney wanted anything more than to lose cleanly in 2012.

As to the denials, if you’d had the images and chosen not to use them because you wanted to take the high road and protect “muh principles,” knowing what you know today, would you admit to not using them? My guess is that you would deny knowing anything about them and take the hit for being merely incompetent.

On the other hand, the Gillespie campaign may have never discovered the images. GOP campaigns hiring incompetents, grifters, and rent-seekers foisted upon them by outsiders is nearly the hallmark of any GOP campaign.

We’ll probably never know if the Gillespie campaign knew about the images or how they managed to miss them and that is mostly because there are no possible answers that make the Gillespie campaign or the Virginia GOP look particularly good.

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