Ed Gillespie, like the Washington Redskins, figured to be a longshot this year. But with the aid of the local team, the Virginia Republican finds himself in a Senate race too close to call the day after the election.
“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a bill to force the Redskins to change their name,” a male voice informed on a Gillespie ad that ran on Monday Night Football last week. “Mark Warner refused to answer if he supports the bill or not. Why won’t Warner fight the anti-Redskins bill? Why won’t he answer the question.”
A smiling Gillespie then appears on the screen. “I’ll answer the question,” the former Republican National Committee chairman volunteers. “I’ll oppose the anti-Redskins bill.”
The ad aired during the ESPN broadcast of the Redskins-Cowboys game last week. Washington entered the contest a 9.5-point underdog. But the Redskins overcame the expectations and handed the high-riding Cowboys defeat. Gillespie, similarly, shocked political prognosticators by making a race of an election some saw as a runaway. FiveThirtyEight.com gave Gillespie a slighter than three percent chance of winning. By Wednesday morning, Gillespie trailed by about 12,000 out of more than two million votes cast. The candidate appear headed toward a recount.
Adversaries ridiculed a political ad on sports. But they aren’t laughing this morning.
The controversial ad details issues, such as jobs, that Gillespie would prioritize if elected. The juxtaposition of a sports controversy with the economy in the ad suggests that Reid, Warner, and other Senate Democrats have lost touch with voters by overlooking substantive issues in favor of a symbolic fight on a team nickname.
Gillespie instructs, “Let the Redskins handle what to call their team.”