Kit Seryak on Monday launched his campaign for Congress in Ohio with a video highlighting his opposition to kneeling during the national anthem, revealing the depth of President Trump’s Republican takeover,
Cultural themes pushed by Trump in speeches and tweets have been finding their way into down-ballot Republican campaigns. Seryak, an Army combat veteran running for the Republican nomination in Northeast Ohio’s 16th congressional district, is the latest to crib from the president to gain an advantage, and might be the first to do so using the kneeling issue.
“While I respect the rights of athletes and others who choose division over unity by refusing to stand for our flag, I will always pursue the cause of American unity in my service to our country and I’m not afraid to speak out when I see it being threatened,” Seryak said, in a statement provided to the Washington Examiner, which was given a first glimpse of the candidate’s announcement video.
Seryak is the fourth Republican to enter the Republican-leaning Sixteenth District primary, joining state legislators Christina Hagan and Tom Patton and former National Football League player Anthony Gonzalez.
The elements of Seryak’s video likely to garner the most attention address professional football players who kneel during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner before the game to protest racial injustice in the United States.
But the video broadly is a paean to the nationalistic populism Trump has injected into the Republican Party, replacing what might have been expected before his ascendency and what for years has been a hyper focus on conservative ideological credentials.
“I’ll take on the establishment status quo and work with President Trump to put America, and American jobs, first,” Seryak says in the video, which concludes with him paying respects at a military cemetery, saying “For me, this is the only place to take a knee.”
In a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, Trump is holding strong, getting high marks from 79 percent of self-identified Republicans, 85 percent of self-identified conservative Republicans, and 91 percent of self-identified Trump voters.
Trump’s endurance with Republican voters, and a party makeover that continues apace, helps explain why candidates running for office in the midterm elections are aping his rhetoric, amidst despite low national approval ratings, a federal investigation into his presidential campaign and periodic White House chaos.
Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee for governor in Virginia who goes before the voters on Tuesday, is doing the same. And it appears to be working.
Despite the structural advantages Gillespie faces against Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, his campaign is surging on the strength of an advertising campaign laced with Trump bromides about the dangers of Hispanic gangs, illegal immigrants and liberal threats to remove Confederate monuments and bury “our heritage.”
Republican strategists monitoring the Virginia race say Gillespie’s strategy could work in competitive congressional races across the country, and expect candidates to import his approach into their contests, if the Tuesday’s contest finishes as close as the polls suggest.
“As long as Democrats continue to be weak on crime and work to raise our taxes, we have a chance to win any race,” said Corry Bliss, who runs Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that plans to spend $100 million to help Republicans hold control of the House in 2018.