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Pence, Biden hit the trail in Virginia governor's race


Pence, Biden hit the trail in Virginia governor's race
POLITICO - TOP Stories  /  krobillard@politico.com (Kevin Robillard)

Mike Pence is pictured. | AP Photo

Vice President Mike Pence, pictured in September, attacked Virginia Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam for protecting so-called sanctuary cities. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo

The vice presidents stumped for their candidates in the home stretch of Virginia's gubernatorial election.

RESTON, Va. — The current and former vice presidents swooped into the Virginia governor's race Saturday, with Vice President Mike Pence rallying for Republican Ed Gillespie in the state's Trump-loving Southwest and Joe Biden hosting a low-key economic development roundtable for Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in vote-rich Northern Virginia.

The events came with just over three weeks to go in one of the most closely watched statewide elections of 2017, highlighting the candidates' paths to victory as their parties push for a win to herald ahead of next year's midterm elections.

The two events could hardly have been more different. Northam and Biden campaigned before a crowd of about 100 in a co-working space on the 8th floor of a building in a mixed-use development in Reston, where two-thirds of adults have a college degree and the median household income tops $110,000. They bypassed political red meat and instead discussed Northam's economic policies.

Pence, meanwhile, traveled to the Washington County fairgrounds, one of the few politically safe regions of the state to bring a Trump administration official. His rally with Gillespie in Abingdon, where the Republican presidential ticket took home 75 percent of the county vote, was expressly political. Pence repeatedly attacked Northam in front of the crowd of 400 people.

"Ralph Northam cast the tiebreaking vote against a bill in the state Senate against a bill to crack down on sanctuary cities," Pence said, after saying Northam voted to increase taxes and want to repeal Virginia's right-to-work law. "Like Donald Trump, Ed Gillespie will put the safety and prosperity of the American people first."

There are no sanctuary cities in Virginia.

Public polling has given Northam a small but steady lead in the contest. The party out of power in Washington traditionally has an advantage in Virginia's off-off-year gubernatorial race, and Trump is unpopular in most of the state, especially in the populous suburbs of Northern Virginia.

Gillespie nearly defeated Sen. Mark Warner in the 2014 Senate race by running up the score outside those Democratic-leaning metro areas. Pence's rally was part of a strategy to gin up turnout among working-class white voters again, after they came out in big numbers for Trump in 2016. But Trump lost the state last year, and Gillespie needs to be much more competitive in Northern Virginia to win. After Trump endorsed Gillespie early this month, the Republican tried to downplay the news and wouldn't say if he was pleased to have presidential backing.

In Reston, Biden praised Northam, saying voters could "feel" and "taste" the candidate's "authenticity." But he declined to criticize Gillespie, a former lobbyist and Republican National Committee chair. "I don't know your opponent," Biden said. "I'm not going to speak ill of him."

In his most political moment, Biden said a Northam victory could reassure Americans.

"The only hope for leadership we have is at the state level," Biden said. A Northam win, he claimed, would "give people hope we are not falling into this know-nothing pit."

While the event was nominally a roundtable with entrepreneurs, government officials, students and investors, the famously voluble Biden spoke for roughly 15 minutes of the allotted hour. Biden, whose wife worked at Northern Virginia Community College for nearly a decade, touted Northam's plan to give free community college to workers in high-demand fields who commit to a year of public service.

"All of us should have some skin in the game," Northam said.

Meanwhile, Gillespie has been airing ads attacking Northam as soft on illegal immigration and claiming the Democrats want to "erase history" by removing Confederate statues -- two topics Republicans hope can both energize Trump supporters who might not be enthusiastic about Gillespie, an establishment figure, and also win over swing voters.

"The Democrats in the Southwest part of Virginia have been abandoned by their Party," Trump wrote on Twitter before Pence's rally. "Republican Ed Gillespie will never let you down!" (Pence would later read Trump's tweet aloud during the rally.)

Gillespie focused most of his speech on his myriad of policy proposals, promising regulatory reform, praising Trump and Pence for repealing Obama administration environmental proposals and saying tax cuts would help the state's economy become "unstuck." He delivered just one serving of red meat during his speech.

"Do we need sanctuary cities in the commonwealth of Virginia?," Gillespie asked. "No," the crowd responded.

Pence repeatedly said Gillespie and Trump would work toward similar goals and reminded voters Gillespie stood "shoulder to shoulder" with him last fall, campaigning for Pence and Trump "all the way across Virginia."

"Tell somebody President Trump and I need Ed Gillespie to be the next governor of Virginia," Pence said.



Original Article: http://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/14/pence-biden-virginia-governor-race-243779

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