Gillespie: Trump a 'big factor' in loss in Va. governor's race

Gillespie: Trump a 'big factor' in loss in Va. governor's race
© Greg Nash

Republican Ed Gillespie said that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ MORE may have been a "big factor" in his defeat in the Virginia gubernatorial race last month.

In an interview with CNN's David Axelrod on his podcast "The Axe Files," Gillespie said that during his race against Democrat Ralph Northam, the eventual winner of the election, he tried to separate his campaign from the president and instead make it about Virginia.

But the race was widely seen as an early referendum on Trump's presidency.

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"If you're not standing up for President Trump, for his supporters, they see you as not for him," Gillespie said. "And it's not that I was not for him, it's just that I'm not against him. I wanted to be for Virginia and I wanted to keep the focus on Virginia."

"It's a tough tightrope to walk, and it may not be walkable, to be honest with you."

On the campaign trail, Gillespie appeared at times to distance himself from Trump, who remains deeply unpopular in Virginia. He said that he never asked Trump to campaign with him in the state, and that the president never offered to.

Gillespie fell to Northam by about 9 points in the state's Nov. 7 gubernatorial election, and Democrats swept statewide, picking up 16 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates.

After the results of the election, Trump tweeted that Gillespie lost because he did not fully embrace the president and his brand of politics.

"Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for," Trump wrote at the time. "Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!"