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Dave Brat: Gillespie Lost Because He Didn’t ‘Run on the Populist Message’

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Virginia Rep. Dave Brat said Wednesday on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that Ed Gillespie’s run for governor in Virginia was a “disaster” because Gillespie refused to embrace fully the populist message President Donald Trump campaigned on in 2016.

Brat, who pulled off one of the biggest upsets in congressional history when he ousted former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 GOP primary, attributed much of his victory to embracing the type of populist message Trump took to the voters nationally in 2016. LifeZette Editor-in-Chief Laura Ingraham lamented the fact that Gillespie largely distanced himself from Trump and only took Ingraham up on her offer to appear on her radio show last week when “it was too late.” Up until that point, Ingraham said Gillespie had treated both her and populist former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as “lepers.”

Noting that Gillespie didn't run the type of campaign that he ran back in 2014 and 2016, Brat told Ingraham that the Virginia gubernatorial election "was a disaster" for Republicans, saying: "We didn't nationalize the election." Instead, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) won the gubernatorial election by roughly 9 percent of the vote.

"The Democrats nationalized it, right? And we didn't nationalize it along the lines you're talking about — immigration policy, tax policy," he said. "The Democrats raised taxes by $10 trillion in their budget, and you haven't heard our leadership mention that. It's just shocking."

Saying that Gillespie and Virginia Republicans "failed to mention the failure of Obamacare" in an election that the Democrats "nationalized," Brat lamented that his party also lost its significant majority in Virginia's House of Delegates.

"We had two-thirds advantage in the House of Delegates, and now I think best-case scenario is about a break-even," he said. "We got devastated, but we've got to up our game and run on the populist message."

Brat noted that although he carried his district by 15 percent in 2016, Gillespie only won it by 4 percent.

"So I'm going to have a tough race. You can tell the folks to help me out in any way they can to spread the word and help me out," he told Ingraham.

"[Gillespie] got out a pretty good chunk of the vote, but the Democrats did even better, right? And so they lit it up in terms of turnout. We matched the previous races," Brat added. "But if he would have had the Trump populist message on board, right? You would have had people coming out of the rafters, like when you came down to visit me, right?"

When Ingraham campaigned for Brat back in 2014, the Virginia congressman noted that "people were hanging from the rafters" in their excitement.

"We were expecting 200 people, 800 people showed up. You need that dynamism and that energy. So Ed was starting to capture some of that," Brat said. "He was starting to get there, but you've got to follow through and nationalize it, right?"

(photo credit, homepage images: Dave Brat [1], CC BY-SA 3.0 [2], by Gage Skidmore [3]; photo credit, article images: Dave Brat [4], CC BY-SA 2.0 [5], by Gage Skidmore [3])