ALEXANDRIA, Va. - He’s not on the ballot, but there is new evidence President Donald Trump is a big factor in the Virginia governor's race.
A new poll released Tuesday shows a whopping 96 percent of Democrats who support their party's candidate Ralph Northam disapprove of the president. At the same time, 75 percent of voters who support Republican Ed Gillespie approve of President Trump.
This new poll was conducted by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. The numbers suggest that Gillespie has a "Donald Trump problem” in his campaign to become the next governor of Virginia.
However, the key findings also show Northam is facing backlash for his hard line of being in favor of removing Confederate statues. (Read the full report here)
Virginia is increasingly becoming a purple state and both parties are having to appeal to both sides. Experts like Anne Khademian, director of Virginia Tech's School of Public and International Affairs, warns Democrats could be overplaying their "Trump card" while Republicans facing the decision if they will embrace or distance themselves from President Trump.
"There is real strong opposition to Trump that is being reflected in support for Northam in that sense,” Khademian said. “It's an anti-Trump vote and you see that in the polls as well. So I think it is a really big impact that you are having there. I think the bigger challenge for Gillespie is does he lean towards Trump or lean away?"
For Northam, the data raise the question if he will ease his call to remove Confederate statues following the August violence in Charlottesville. Fifty-four percent of likely Virginia voters say they oppose removing statues from public spaces.
On the Republican side: 72 percent of Gillespie voters say the president is not a factor in their choice. However, 51 percent of Democrats say he is a very big factor. That makes the GOP winning over moderates even tougher.
Recent history is also stacking up against the Republican side in Virginia and it has nothing to do with Trump. Since 1998 when Republican Jim Gilmore was elected, only one other Republican has been elected governor – Bob McDonnell. That means Democrats have controlled the governor's mansion in Virginia for 16 of the past 20 years.