Just Like Any Other Candidates, Gillespie and Northam Have Distinct Weaknesses to Overcome

Sep 21, 2017

Republican Ed Gillespie (left) and Democrat Ralph Northam at a televised debate in Northern Virginia earlier this week.
Credit Bonnie Jo Mount / The Washington Post via AP, Pool

Every candidate has a something to overcome. So what are the weaknesses the two major party candidates for governor have heading into the fall election season?

Every candidate has weaknesses. Some are good speaking off the cuff. Others not so much. Some are great at fundraising while others struggle. But the two major party candidates running for governor suffer from their own distinct weaknesses. Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett says Ralph Northam’s weakness is that he’s really not all that well known. He’s been lieutenant governor for four years, but people still don’t know much about him.

“One of the things that you see in his numbers in Northern Virginia is that when you go out past the insider community, there’s just a lot of softness in his support. And the softness comes from people who just don’t know him that well.”

Republican strategist Dan Scandling says Ed Gillespie’s weakness is beyond his control — the unpopularity of the president.

“Probably the biggest thing being hung around Ed’s neck is the Trump administration. But where you are in the state depends on how much of a weight that is. If you are downstate, that’s not a problem. If you’re up here in Northern Virginia, it’s a potential problem.”

Heading into Election Day, Northam will try to raise his profile by appearing in a series of expensive TV ads. So get ready for those. And Gillespie will try to moderate his relationship with Trump, agreeing with some things while disagreeing with others. This week, he declined to answer a question about whether he’ll ask the president to campaign for him in Virginia.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.