Trump's Virginia campaign facing internal turmoil

Not that the Trump campaign needed any more bad news at this particular time, but something really odd happened in Virginia last night. Word came down fairly late in the day that the GOP candidate’s state co-chair, Corey Stewart, had been unceremoniously dumped from his role and was no longer officially associated with the campaign. The reason given, however, was peculiar indeed. (Washington Post)

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign fired its Virginia state co-chairman, Corey Stewart, on Monday after he took part in a protest in front of Republican National Committee headquarters, a move with repercussions in both the national campaign and the 2017 governor’s race.

The messy parting of ways came just weeks before the election and was the latest sign of turmoil in a campaign that has recently been in a free-fall. Stewart and senior Trump campaign officials blamed each other for problems in Virginia, where polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton leads comfortably.

“Former Virginia State Chairman Corey Stewart is no longer affiliated with the Donald J. Trump for President campaign,” said Trump’s deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, in a statement. “He is being replaced, effective immediately. Corey made this decision when he staged a stunt in front of the RNC without the knowledge or the approval of the Trump campaign.”

Campaign staff shake-ups take place on an almost daily basis in an organization of this size so replacing a state co-chair might not be all that newsworthy. But Corey was let go for “taking part in a protest” outside the RNC headquarters. When I first read that I wondered if he was objecting to something about Trump (which would be particularly odd) but as it turns out, Stewart was taking part in a rally to protest the national party leaders’ moves to abandon Trump and focus on down ballot races. The group was also upset over the perception that money they had raised for Trump was being spent elsewhere.

Stewart complained that money raised by Republicans in Virginia was spent by the RNC on down-ticket races in other states.

“We’ve been raising money in Virginia for Trump, and the RNC has broken all its promises to help its campaign in Virginia because Virginia doesn’t have any critical down-ticket races,” he said.

Something tells me there’s got to be more going on under the covers than just the bits being released to the press. Stewart went to bat for Trump after the release of the Access Hollywood video, brushing off Trump’s “frat boy” antics as no big deal. And if he’s mad at Paul Ryan for bailing out on Trump’s campaign, isn’t that precisely the type of loyalty which The Donald typically prizes? In essence, it looks like Corey was dumped from his post for defending Trump too vigorously. Sure, in a normal year these might be some marginally incendiary positions, but we’re in anything but a normal cycle right now. Stewart’s approach sounds more like something which would be right up Trump’s alley.

Will any of it matter? The rolling poll average in Virginia has had Clinton up by at least 7 points for a while now and the most recent state numbers don’t even include the current period following the release of the video last Friday or Sunday’s debate. Perhaps Trump’s poor performance there of late was a factor in the decision to let him go, but the results may be more a breakdown in demographics than any failure on Stewart’s part. (Northern Virginia is now essentially the southeast extension of Washington, D.C.) As I said at the top, this was just a strange twist in the road for the Trump campaign and yet another negative news item they didn’t need with three weeks to go.

Corey Stewart