Trump tweets support for VA gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie by attacking his opponent

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie speaks during a Tea Party debate at Goochland High School in Goochland, Va., Saturday, April 22, 2017. He and two others face off in a primary on June 13.

Steve Helber / AP

President Trump announced his support for Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie in a tweet Thursday night that was not so much an endorsement of Gillespie as an indictment of his opponent, Democrat Ralph Northam. 

Mr. Trump attacked Northam as "fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs and sanctuary cities." Instead, Mr. Trump urged his audience to, "Vote Ed Gillespie!" 

Ahead of the November gubernatorial election, Gillespie faces an uphill battle. A Real Clear Politics aggregation of polls from the last month shows Gillespie trails Northam by more than 5 points. Gillespie, who was an aide to former President George W. Bush and worked his own lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., is running in an increasingly racially diverse state where an explosive population growth of liberal-leaning voters in Northern Virginia has turned the state's politics more Democratic in recent years. Virginia voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by more than five points. 

But Gillespie came surprisingly close to beating Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, when he ran against the incumbent Democrat for the U.S. Senate in 2014, losing by less than one percent of the vote. 

Northam, a doctor by trade who is currently Virginia's lieutenant governor, and Gillespie are vying for the gubernatorial seat that Gov. Terry McAuliffe currently holds. McAuliffe, elected in 2013, is term-limited, as Virginia does not allow governors to serve two consecutive four-year terms. 

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.