Based on the concentration of federal workers in his 7th District, Brat appears to face less risk from the pay freeze than either Comstock or Taylor do. Brat, who shockingly upset Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 primary on his way to winning the seat, has built a brand of Tea Party-infused fiscal conservatism as a member of Congress.
Still, he does not support the president’s move to scrap the pay increases.
“We should seek ways to aggressively cut the budget, but removing promised raises from federal employees last minute is not the way to do it,” Brat said in a statement to CNBC on Friday.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Cook Political Report rate Brat’s race as a toss-up. Inside Elections considers it one that tilts Republican.
Trump’s move complicates an already tricky electoral landscape for Virginia Republicans. Democrats lead by about 8 percentage points in a rolling average of national congressional generic ballots asking voters which party they would prefer, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Trump’s relatively poor approval rating, lackluster support for key GOP congressional initiatives and historical challenges for the president’s party in midterms have all contributed to a challenging environment for Republicans this year.
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam won election in the state by about 8 percentage points last year. He carried the counties that make up Comstock’s district overwhelmingly.
In addition, the Senate candidate at the top of the GOP’s ticket in the state could add yet another difficulty for Republicans. Polls have consistently showed Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine trouncing Republican Corey Stewart. Stewart has avidly defended symbols of the Confederacy and pledged to crack down on illegal immigration.