WOODBRIDGE, Va.—It was half past 9 p.m. on Tuesday when Corey Stewart took to the stage at the Electric Palm, a tiki-themed restaurant right off of I-95. Politico had just named him the winner in the state’s Republican Senate primary, and it was clear that his victory speech—which focused on the stark contrasts between himself and his opponent, incumbent Democratic Senator Tim Kaine—was building to something big.
“And finally, finally, folks,” he said, quieting the crowd with anticipation, “Virginians can choose to continue to elect criminal, illegal aliens like MS-13—and by the way, they are animals—or, we can arrest them, deport them back to the countries where they came from, and build the wall!”
On cue, the crowd—made up mostly of Stewart’s supporters, and a handful of far-right activists—burst into “build the wall” chants that drowned out the Fox News blaring from the bar’s flat-screen TVs. Stewart, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors chairman who once called himself “Trump before Trump was Trump,” had won over Virginia’s Republicans. In electing him, they seemed to be affirming they loved President Trump as much as ever.
Early Wednesday morning, the president himself highlighted Stewart’s win on Twitter: “Congratulations to Corey Stewart for his great victory for Senator from Virginia,” wrote Trump, who just returned from his historic summit in Singapore. “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!”