Just got home from a meeting, and caught the election news. I didn’t think it would happen, but it sure happened: Democrat Ralph Northam fended off a last-minute surge by Republican Ed Gillespie to take the governor’s mansion in Virginia.
But it’s worse than that for Virginia Republicans. Much worse, according to Jim Geraghty:
At this hour, Republicans are in danger of losing control of the House of Delegates, where they entered Election Day with a seemingly comfortable 17-seat margin. … [T]he key lesson of the night goes far beyond Gillespie. Right now, the Republican party’s brand in Virginia is dirt. Throw in the failure to make New Jersey even remotely competitive, and tonight is about as bad as it can get for the GOP – a sense of déjà vu from the results across the country 2006 and 2008.
Whoa. Trump, graceless as ever, throwing his own man under the bus:
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) November 8, 2017
Here’s another sore loser:
DC should annex NOVA and return the governance of VA to Virginians! The founders intended DC to include all fed employees who are conflicted
— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) November 8, 2017
This makes sense:
An enormous storm is coming. Democrats are wildly motivated to register their hatred for Trump, moderates are disgusted, and his base is depressed by failure to deliver.
— Jeff B/DDHQ (@EsotericCD) November 8, 2017
Philip Bump at the Washington Post figures that Trump’s nasty tweet about Gillespie is going to hurt him with Congressional Republicans:
Trump could have congratulated Gillespie on a hard-fought race and noted the uphill battle. Instead, he decided to try to spin the loss to his advantage.
It’s unlikely that many Republicans worried about next November will be convinced by Trump’s argument. Instead, they’re likely to take another lesson: Trump can’t deliver a victory for you when you’re trailing, and neither can Trumpism. (In fact, there’s every reason to think that Trump was the liability that his poll numbers would suggest, with Gillespie doing fine in western Virginia but getting beaten badly in more-Democratic Northern Virginia.) Nor will Trump stand with you should things go south.
If, next summer, the question of Trump’s fate as president is raised, how might Republicans in center-right districts be expected to evaluate that decision?
I’ll write more tomorrow when I see full results. Open thread here. What are you seeing? What do you think?
UPDATE: From Ben Shapiro’s quick take:
5. Democrats Have A Real Turnout Advantage In 2018. Ten percent more Democrats than Republicans turned out in Virginia today. That’s a disastrous number. There’s a reason for it: many Democrats stayed home in 2016, thinking that Hillary Clinton didn’t need their help, and that she was an off-putting candidate. She’s not on the ballot in 2018. But Trump’s record is, and they despise Trump. They’ll show up this time, knowing that staying home made Trump president. Polls right now have generic Democrats walloping generic Republicans by an 11% margin. Meanwhile, Trump isn’t going to drive people out to the polls when he’s not on the ballot — we’ve seen that in Alabama already, and now Virginia, too. 2020 may be a different story, but 2018 looks like it’s shaping up for disaster, which is why so many Republicans are already bowing out of House races.
6. Trump Gives Democrats Part Of That Advantage. President Trump’s approval rating is historically awful for someone this early in his term; that isn’t helping. Despite much of the base’s interest in Trump and sympathy for him, his numbers just aren’t high enough to drive winning turnout. In fact, his tendency to polarize every issue drives out Democrats: ABC News exit polling showed that “voters by a 2-1 margin said they were casting their ballot to show opposition to Trump rather than support for him. In New Jersey the margin was 3-1.” Republicans may thrill to Trump’s cultural warfare, but it can easily backfire, too.
Shapiro goes on to say that the Trumpists have created an unfalsifiable story for their hero. If a candidate he backs loses, they’ll say it was because he was insufficiently Trumpish. If he wins, it’s because he was Trumpish. This has the effect of letting Trump off the hook for the fact that he has no legislative accomplishments to crow about after a year in office and GOP control of Congress.