I didn’t have much interest in the Virginia governor’s race, considering Ed Gillespie to be a standard Bush-era Washington figure. But after watching this jaw-dropping race-baiting ad last week by the “Latino Victory Fund,” which is tied to Gillespie’s Democratic opponent Ralph Northam, I decided that if I were in Virginia, I’d vote for Gillespie early and often. Look at it, would you? Gillespie voters are pictured as pick-up truck-driving rednecks who want to run down Latino and Muslim children:

The LVF pulled the ad after it discovered that it was galvanizing the Gillespie vote. Now, at the end of the campaign, Gillespie is surging, and just might pull off a come-from-behind victory.

Ramesh Ponnuru explains why the Democrats’ race-baiting backfired on them here. Ponnuru takes on the main liberal accusations against Gillespie’s campaign, and refutes them. He goes on:

In each case, liberals are not so much answering Gillespie’s argument as complaining that he dares to make it — especially since, in each case, it appears to be drawing blood from the Democrats.

Supposedly, Gillespie, in raising these issues, is running as an acolyte of President Donald Trump. That’s the view of his liberal critics, and it’s the self-interested view of some Trump allies, too. Gillespie is campaigning just like Trump — except that he hasn’t called for a Muslim ban, or made claims that Mexican-Americans can’t be good judges, or demanded mass deportations, or advocated war crimes, or chanted for the jailing of his opponent. Not to mention that he has some relatively well-considered position papers, too.

The Gillespie-as-Trump story line ignores a lot of political history from before 2016. Pre-Trump Republicans had often run hardball campaigns based on positions — seeking welfare reform and tougher sentencing for criminals — that liberals deemed racist. In 1988, George H.W. Bush, as establishment a Republican as they come, exploited his opponent Michael Dukakis’s past support for granting weekend furloughs to prisoners serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. It was a lunatic policy that led to predictable tragedy. Bush was right to use it to question Dukakis’s outlook and judgment, even if liberals reacted by accusing him of appealing to racists.

One reason Democrats lost that election is that the liberals of that era were too prone to attribute legitimate differences of opinion to racism. As they’re showing in Virginia, it’s a problem they still have.

Read the whole thing. I didn’t realize until reading it tonight that a Democratic PAC withdrew funding from Northam because they objected to his flip-flop on sanctuary cities (Northam was for them, but changed his mind after realizing how unpopular his position was). Mark Lilla is right: the left would rather stay pure and woke than actually win elections.

Northam is still leading, barely, but given how unpopular Trump is in Virginia, he should be winning this going away.

UPDATE: Comments on this one closed; go comment on the post-election thread, to where the conversation has moved.