RNC mum on whether it will support Trump-backed Corey Stewart

RNC mum on whether it will support Trump-backed Corey Stewart
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The Republican National Committee (RNC) is not saying whether it will support its party’s Senate candidate in Virginia, Cory Stewart.

Stewart is a strong supporter of President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE, who celebrated Stewart’s victory in a tweet on Wednesday, warning that people should not “underestimate Corey” because he has “a major chance of winning.” 

But Stewart has long courted controversy and has some Virginia Republicans questioning whether he has any shot against Sen. Tim Kaine (D).

The RNC is effectively the political arm of the White House, and it would be difficult for it to not back Stewart if Trump presses it to do so.

Under Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, the RNC has been a stalwart defender of the president and has endorsed controversial candidates before at his direction.

The national party did not provide a comment to The Hill in response to multiple questions about whether it would commit resources to electing Stewart.

Stewart’s record and rhetoric had led national Republicans to work against him in the GOP primary.

Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, is known for his ardent defense of Confederate monuments, a politically charged issue after protests and counter-protests involving white supremacists led to violence and the death of a young woman in Charlottesville, Va., last summer.

The monument issue became a central issue in last year’s GOP primary for governor, which Stewart narrowly lost to former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie.

During his successful Senate primary bid, Stewart distanced himself from an anti-Semitic and white nationalist running for Congress in Wisconsin after revelations he had praised the candidate in 2017.  

The RNC under Trump has taken its cues from the president.

In last year’s Alabama Senate race, the RNC followed Trump by endorsing GOP nominee Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreMontgomery, Ala., elects first African American mayor GOP Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville says Trump has 'put a noose' around farmers' necks with trade war Sen. Doug Jones launches reelection bid in Alabama MORE, even though he had been accused of sexual conduct with a minor in decades-old allegations that surfaced in the final months of the campaign.  The National Republican Senatorial Committee chose not to back Moore.

The questions about the RNC’s position come days after Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerTrump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong GOP braces for impeachment brawl Republicans wrestle with impeachment strategy MORE (R-Colo.), the head of the NRSC, suggested Stewart will not get the group’s backing in brief comments to CNN on Wednesday.  

“We have a big map. Right now we are focused on Florida, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana. Big map. I don't see Virginia in it,” he said. 

“My focus continues to be on a number of states that we have candidates who are winning and ahead.”

Stewart is seen as an underdog to Kaine, the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2016. A recent Roanoke College poll showed the Democrat up 11 points over Stewart.

Morton Blackwell, the Republican National Committeeman for Virginia who supported Stewart’s opponent in the primary, told The Hill he’s hopeful that the party unites around Stewart. 

He specifically pointed to the need for a unified effort to protect incumbents down-ballot — Virginia Republican Reps. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockGun debate raises stakes in battle for Virginia legislature Progressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers MORE, Scott TaylorScott William TaylorDemocratic lawmaker invites Republican to town hall after he accuses her of dodging voters on impeachment Former GOP rep launches Senate campaign in Virginia Virginia special prosecutor indicts former GOP campaign staffer MORE and Dave Brat are all facing serious challengers, and there’s also a competitive election to replace retiring Rep. Tom GarrettThomas (Tom) Alexander GarrettLiberty University official to launch primary challenge to GOP's Riggleman Female Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Ethics investigation finds outgoing House Republican made staff unload groceries, dog-sit MORE.

“We have a lot of vigorous Democrat candidates for Republican-held seats in the House of Representatives. It would be harmful to those races if we didn’t run at least a strong campaign for the Senate nomination,” Blackwell said.

Stewart’s backers believe the waffling on his candidacy is much ado about nothing.

“We have the support of the president and the Virginia Republicans are 100% on board,” Stewart’s campaign manager, Matt Brown, told The Hill in a statement when asked whether the RNC will back the campaign. 

“Stewart has won five times in a blue Northern Virginia county, the only Republican to do so since 2009. I fully expect them to come on board once they see him in action and realize Corey Stewart is going to defeat Tim Kaine.”