Last year, Republicans in Virginia tried to walk a fine line between keeping their distance from Trump while trying to sound like him. The result was a brutal rout despite Virginia being one of the more heavily gerrymandered states in the country. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam won by an astonishing 9 points and Republicans lost 15 seats, holding on to the House by a single seat and that seat by literally a single vote.
Since then, Trump has only further solidified his hold on the party, causing the three Republican candidates attempting to unseat Virginia's Democratic Senator Tim Kaine to run headlong into an oncoming blue tidal wave with their Trump flag flying high:
Asked at a debate about a variety of Trump’s domestic and international policies Thursday, Corey Stewart, Nick Freitas and E.W. Jackson had the president’s back. Border wall? Check. Threatening to scrap a nuclear deal with Iran? Check. Russia investigation?
“Fishing expedition,” said Stewart./“Major fishing expedition,” said Freitas.
“They’re trying to overthrow the president,” said Jackson.
Their steadfast support for the president suggests that no matter who wins the June 12 primary, Virginia’s Republican candidate for U.S. Senate will run hand-in-hand with Trump, who polls poorly in Virginia but remains popular with the GOP base.
The calculation isn't hard to understand: Trump is all the party has. Period. They can't run on actual issues like real job creation or getting people healthcare or raising wages or dealing any of the other economic issues the middle and working class actually want to talk about. Republican policies are explicitly designed to make all of those things worse for Americans that aren't already rich. At the same time, not running as a Trump supporter is the kiss of death for Republicans. White Republican voters are so thoroughly enamored with the racism and bigotry Trump spews on an almost daily basis that they won't accept anything else. They won't even be able to tack back towards the less extreme right after the primary even a little or they'll lose most of the Trump vote.
The Catch-22 is that running as a full fledged Trumpster will get their deplorable base kind of motivated but it will bring out the Democratic base in droves. It's kind of like cracking a bee hive to get the honey and then getting stung to death. Not exactly a worthwhile trade but it's the only play they've got.
Tim Kaine may not be the most exciting candidate to ever run for reelection but he's solidly above water in popularity polls and Virginia voters are going to be out in force trying to flip the House and Senate to finally get Congress to uphold its constitutional duty as a check and balance on Trump's corrupt and out of control executive branch. In the face of that kind of Democratic enthusiasm, being a Trump sycophant will be an albatross at the ballot box.
But, hey, keep trying to top each other as the biggest Trump lover, guys; it's going to really keep us motivated going into November.