The Virginia governor's race has turned into a culture war -- and President Donald Trump has jumped right in.

Democratic and Republican operatives worried about their party's fortunes in the 2018 midterms are watching closely to see whether a GOP campaign using controversial tactics aimed at solidifying support from white voters can top a Democratic campaign that is concerned about minority turnout.

Republican Ed Gillespie for weeks has aired television ads featuring scary images of MS-13 gang members -- an opening to accuse Democrat Ralph Northam of being weak on immigration enforcement.

Now, less than two weeks from a November 7 election that will be seen nationally as a barometer of Trump's popularity and performance, and a testing ground for midterm messages, Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chair and George W. Bush adviser, is turning his focus in a new ad to a debate over Confederate monuments. He has supported keeping the monuments in place with additional context, while Northam, the state's lieutenant governor, has called for them to be moved to museums.

"I'm for keeping them up and he's for taking them down. And that's a big difference in November," Gillespie says in the ad.

Trump emphasized Virginia's Confederate statues Thursday morning, tweeting: "Ed Gillespie will turn the really bad Virginia economy #'s around, and fast. Strong on crime, he might even save our great statues/heritage!"