Trump Cheers Republican Senate Candidate Who Has Called an Anti-Semite His Hero

Virginia Republicans voted to nominate a Senate candidate with deep connections to white supremacists and anti-Muslim coalitions Tuesday evening. Corey Stewart, a former gubernatorial candidate, confederate statue defender and praiser of anti-Semites clinched the nomination in a fairly close race. He will now run against incumbent Democratic Senator Tim Kaine in the general election.

President Donald Trump praised the outcome in a tweet Wednesday morning. "Congratulations to Corey Stewart for his great victory for Senator from Virginia," he wrote. "Now he runs against a total stiff, Tim Kaine, who is weak on crime and borders, and wants to raise your taxes through the roof. Don't underestimate Corey, a major chance of winning!"

Congratulations to Corey Stewart for his great victory for Senator from Virginia. Now he runs against a total stiff, Tim Kaine, who is weak on crime and borders, and wants to raise your taxes through the roof. Don’t underestimate Corey, a major chance of winning!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018

Stewart has called Republican congressional candidate Paul Nehlen his "personal hero." Nehlen's campaign has posted anti-Semitic memes, tweeted out a list of Jewish journalists, and promoted a book by neo-Nazi Kevin MacDonald.

"Corey Stewart was an outspoken supporter of the white supremacist 'Unite the Right' rally in Charlottesville last August, has appeared publicly several times with the rally's organizer Jason Kessler, and was a featured speaker at an alt-lite rally in Washington, D.C., last June," an Anti-Defamation League spokesperson told Newsweek. "In campaign photographs, Stewart has appeared with members of the League of the South, a white supremacist group that advocates for southern secession and an independent, white-dominated South."

A number of white nationalists are running for Republican party bids across the country, but most of them have little to no chance at the actual nomination. Republican strategist Ford O'Connell says that Stewart's win doesn't suggest a change in that trend.

"The number one thing when running in a primary is name identification, and Stewart has that from running for governor," he explained. "In terms of setting a national precedent, you've got battles all over the country and people aren't paying that much attention to the Virginia race."

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is staying away from the race as well. "We have a big map, right now we are focused on Florida, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana. I don't see Virginia in it," Senator Cory Gardner, who is chairman of the committee, told CNN.

"You'd see more uproar on the Republican side if this were a race that Republicans had a fighting chance on," explained O'Connell. "Republicans nationally won't talk about this and outside of media markets in Washington D.C., Democrats won't talk about it either."

Still, Trump's endorsement of Stewart carries some weight. "Stewart has been a dogged supporter of Trump and the president understands that you have to reward those who have been loyal," said O'Connell. "The thing with Stewart is that he fires up the base and the more base voters you can turn out the better; maybe Democrats will have to spend some money defending Kaine."

O'Connell, who worked as an adviser to Senator John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, says that there is no moral dilemma when it comes to Trump supporting Stewart publicly. "We're in an era where the rules are out the window—right now both sides are just trying to win," he said. "Republicans have tried the Romney strategy and it didn't work, and now they're just going to try to throw up anything at the wall and see what sticks."

Senator Tim Kaine, who ran alongside Hillary Clinton in 2016, tweeted Wednesday morning that Stewart "has stoked the fires of bigotry" in the state. "He's underfunded public schools and health care. He vows to run a 'vicious' campaign against me, Kaine said. "That's not what we need. It's not who we are."