Republican Corey Stewart , as a Senate candidate in Virginia, is struggling to reboot his stance, as his poll numbers are relatively low, money is scarce and there’s close to little support among the GOP establishment.
With less than 40 days to go for the November 6 election, Stewart is blaming the vitriolic campaign that was run for more than a year on the advice of his political consultant, Noel Fritsch, whom he fired last month. Fritsch had also worked on Stewart’s unsuccessful 2017 bid for governor.
Stewart presented himself as a pragmatic leader at a debate on Wednesday, trying to bridge difference for getting things done in Prince William County, where he chairs the Board of County Supervisors.
Stewart is on his heels, trying to gain ground on his opponent, Sen. Tim Kaine, who leads by about 20 points in a majority of the polls. The two even got into a heated debate at the Virginia State Debate last week, where the two fought over and capitalized on the infamous Kavanaugh case. After out raising Stewart $19.3 million to $1.3 million, Kaine has an advertising budget and logistics operation that have dominated the Republican’s bare-bones campaign.
According to Stewart, firing Fritsch, whom he has paid $52,000 since early 2017, was an effort to manoeuvre his campaign from an angry tone that drifted away his potential supporters. Since then, Stewart has made sure to include sober topics, such as the gross domestic product and unemployment rates in his speeches.
Stewart gained prominence last year when he almost won the GOP nod for governor by championing Confederate monuments, railing against illegal immigrants, raffling off an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and attacking moderate Republicans for failing to fully back Trump.
According to political analysts, as there isn’t much time left, Stewart is stuck between the need to plead to moderate voters while still being provocative enough to capture free media attention that would help him reach potential supporters he doesn’t have funds to court otherwise.
Stephen J. Farnsworth, a political-science professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, said “If Corey Stewart had presented himself as a more conventional Republican when he first entered statewide politics, he probably wouldn’t have been noticed in the way he has as a more aggressive figure. But getting known doesn’t mean getting elected statewide. Those are two very different things.”
Stewart wants to portray a new image — “conservative, strong and stern,” which according to him can appeal to more moderate voters.
It is hard for voters to know which Corey Stewart is authentic and which is manufactured, said Quentin Kidd, director of Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Public Policy.
“It doesn’t say anything that voters should feel comfortable with,” Kidd said. “I don’t know how a moderated Corey Stewart would make amends for all of the things that the Corey Stewart that you and I know has said and done.”